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Injury sidelines FD champ Ayala for 6-8 weeks

Dodger star suffers broken bone in left hand at Super 32 Challenge

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Drake Ayala of Fort Dodge wrestles against Southeast Polk Devin Harmison for the Class 3A 113-pound state championship last year in Des Moines.

Drake Ayala has never responded to adversity with self-pity or resentment.

The Fort Dodge state and two-time Fargo Nationals champion isn’t about to start now.

Ayala suffered a broken bone in his left index finger during a match at the Super 32 Challenge in Greensboro, N.C. last Saturday. The injury will sideline the Dodger junior for at least six weeks.

Ayala, who was competing at 120 pounds in the high school division, didn’t initially realize he’d been hurt at all — let alone to this extent — when he was wrestling Georgia state champion Kevin Martin in the tournament’s third round.

“I wasn’t really in any pain at first,” said Ayala, who went undefeated at 43-0 last season to capture Iowa’s Class 3A state crown at 113 pounds. “I remember (Martin) rolled over on it after an early takedown. But I finished the match (Ayala scored an 11-2 victory over Martin).

“It got progressively worse as we got into (the second and third periods), though. And by the end, I could barely move it. I wasn’t exactly sure when it had happened until I watched the video afterward. You can see (in the replay) that I kind of tried to shake it off; I remember thinking it was almost like (the equivalent) of having a charley horse as far as how it felt.”

By the time Ayala had his hand raised, “I could really tell something wasn’t right.”

“I walked off (the mat) and could see it swelling up already,” said Ayala, who is being recruited by nearly every major Div. I collegiate program in the country. “We went to the trainer just to make sure, and they were able to actually do an X-ray right there (in the arena). The broken bone came up on that.

“It was good that we checked it, because I was just going to have it taped up at first. But my dad (Sam) wanted to double check and be on the safe side.”

Ayala will have a cast on his hand until at least Nov. 8, when he could be fitted for a brace. He said the six-week timeframe “is a best-case scenario,” and could actually extend into the early portion of the Dodgers’ 2019-20 schedule. Fort Dodge opens Dec. 5 at home against Ankeny Centennial.

“We’re just going to play it safe and see what happens,” said Ayala, who is 88-2 overall in his two years as a Dodger. “I didn’t need surgery, which was the first (item of) good news. The doctors want to make sure I’m 100 percent before I get back at it (on the mat).

“I’m just trying to stay positive. I have to look at it like a (stretch away from competition) will be good for me in the long run and make me even hungrier. I’ll be able to stay in shape, which is big, and just get refreshed and focused on winning another state title from there.”

Ayala said he’ll “still be at every (preseason) practice” for FDSH, which starts on Nov. 18.

“I’ll treat it just like I’m getting ready for (the year), other than not being able to actually wrestle,” said Ayala, the country’s No. 12 overall recruit for the Class of 2021, according to FloWrestling, and a consensus Top-10 120-pounder nationally. “If the coaches want me to run the warmups, I’ll run the warmups.

“This isn’t a huge deal. It could obviously be a lot worse. Being out for two months or whatever disappointing, of course, and I really wanted to make a run at (Super 32). But I’m not going to let it change my attitude or get in the way of my goals.”