Dylan Gabel had his doubts a little over a year ago whether he would be wrestling this season.
Gabel, a 170-pound junior at Ponderosa, is 27-4 this year heading into tonight’s Continental League championship match against Chaparral in the Mustangs’ gym.
While playing football as a sophomore, Gabel had some back pain but kept playing. He wound up undergoing major back surgery and he missed the entire 2011-12 wrestling campaign.
“I don’t know how it happened,” said Gabel. “I can’t remember a hit or anything. I had a broken back, that’s the easiest to understand. I had major back surgery. They went in and put two screws, two rods and two hooks in my back and a bone graph from my hip to remake my bone.
“There were times when I was recovering from surgery when I didn’t know if I would be able to do anything again because of the extent of the surgery and the pain that had taken place.”
Gabel returned to the Mustangs football team for post-season action.
“That was a big confidence booster to play football,” said Gabel. “By doing my rehab and keeping my core strong, when I come out to wrestle it will be good. I know it’s God’s plan and I’ve just got to trust him.
“I feel confident with my back and feel 100 percent right now. I don’t think about it at all when I’m wrestling. I still rehab. After a full weekend with a ton of matches it will be sore but that’s to be expected. I’ll have that the rest of my life. I’m definitely a 100 percent and as good as I’ll ever be. I know the doctors and my physical therapist have done everything for me to be 100 percent.”
Gabel is now able to resume the wrestling heritage of his family that included his grandfather Vern, his father Gary and older brother Austin who graduated from Ponderosa two years ago.
“It started with my grandpa,” explained Gable. “He wrestled in the Marines. Then my Dad wrestled at UNC (Northern Colorado) and he was a coach at Platte Valley High School and won two state championships there. My brother was a three-time state champion and he’s in the lineup and wrestling at Virginia Tech now.”
Gary Gabel is currently the principal at Palmer Ridge High School.
In tonight’s championship dual meet against Chaparral, the Mustangs will be seeking their 19th consecutive league championship. Ponderosa, No. 3 among Class 5A teams in the latest On the Mat rankings, has not lost a league dual meet since 1994.
“This season has gone pretty well,” said Gabel. “After missing my sophomore year, it’s really coming together for me. Injuries (elbow) have been a little bit of an issue but I’m feeling good and I make sure my rehab is okay with my back.
“Everyone knows the rivalry between us and Chaparral. The atmosphere will be very alive and I’m looking forward to that and we’re looking forward to continuing the streak.”
Ponderosa coach Corey McNellis is looking for his team to show consistency.
“This year has been really up and down,” said McNellis.
“When we look good, we look really good. When we look bad, we look really bad.
“So our goal is to try to be consistent. We’ve improved a lot the last couple weeks and I’m confident that we will peak when the time is right.”
Chaparral coach Rod Padilla figures tonight’s match will be special.
“It will be an exciting match, because of the intensity that it creates,” said Padilla. “I would venture to say that most wrestlers are not as lucky to compete in a packed house wrestling dual.
“The wrestlers may not even realize how awesome it is until they are out on their own and have (sons) wrestlers of their own. It is a special event.”