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Prep Newsmaker: Injuries can't stop Cockrell

Kirtland Central senior wrestler has overcome the odds in each of the past two seasons

Jake Newby
jnewby@pnj.com
Kirtland Central's Aidan Cockrell poses for a portrait on Monday at Kirtland Central High School.

KIRTLAND — Athletes at every level have to battle through injuries, but over the last year, Kirtland Central wrestler Aidan Cockrell has taken that to the extreme.

While wrestling in the Cardinal Classic on Jan. 29 in Las Vegas, N.M., Cockrell felt discomfort in his lower right abdomen. Trainers decided to not only pull Cockrell from the meet, but to rush him to the hospital, where doctors contemplated performing an emergency appendectomy.

"He didn't even want to talk to the trainers because he didn't want to get pulled from the meet, but I told him, 'No, let's see how serious it is,'" KC wrestling coach JJ Sandoval said. "He goes to the hospital, and they want to remove his appendix that night. And he ends up getting it done the next day in Rio Rancho."

Following surgery, the senior spent a couple of days recovering in the hospital with the rest of his season in serious doubt.

Coming off a state championship last year, Cockrell was in the midst of another fine season. He boasted a 4-1 record at multiple tournaments this year and had his eyes on a repeat at state before the appendectomy temporarily derailed his plans.

But on Friday at the District 1-4A individual state qualifier tournament in Shiprock, Cockrell made a surprise return.

"Everyone thought I was done at first — the doctors, trainers, everyone," Cockrell said. "But last week I started to do a little bit of swimming and some running and really started to heal up faster than expected."

At the state qualifier meet, the 138-pound Cockrell defeated Jamison Long from Wingate to punch his ticket to the state tourney in Rio Rancho. Now, the stage is set for Cockrell to do exactly what he did last year: overcome a serious injury and win a state title.

In late December 2014, Cockrell spent a week in the hospital with a severe staph infection. His left arm swelled to twice its normal size, Cockrell said, and his body rejected much of what doctors initially prescribed to him.

"I was allergic to a lot of the antibiotics they were giving me," he said. "They were scared that if the infection got into my bloodstream I could die."

But Cockrell persevered, and eventually beat the infection with an antibiotic. He missed more than two months of action before returning in late February 2015 and going on to capture the state title at his junior weight of 132.

"I always tell him they're going to do a Disney movie on him some day," Sandoval said. "It's all work ethic with Aidan and determination to fight through the things he's fought through."

After going unseeded last year, Cockrell is expected to be seeded No. 1 in his weight class at state this weekend. But he will face some major obstacles.

"I'm not going to say he's going to walk through it, but he should win it all again," Sandoval said. "The kid he wrestles in the finals should either be a kid from Cobre or a kid from Pecos — two kids he upset last year."

In his qualifying victory Friday, Cockrell said he didn't feel any pain in his right side after surgery, but he doesn't rule out possible aggravation at the state tournament. Even if he does experience a little pain, he said, it's nothing he hasn't dealt with before.

"It's my senior year, so I feel like I've got nothing to lose; I can just leave it all out there," he said. "Winning another state title is what I've been working all year for, and I feel like I'm really close to making it happen."

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577. 

A closer look: Aidan Cockrell

1. Favorite team?

"Baltimore Ravens."

2. Favorite athlete?

"Ray Lewis."

3. Favorite food?

"Pasta."

4. Favorite movie?

"We Were Soldiers."

5. Favorite subject in school?

"Science."

6. Least favorite subject?

"English."

7. Biggest fear?

"Drowning."

8. Do you play any other sports?

"Football and track."

9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?

"Give half of it to my family and blow the other half."

10. Do you have any pregame rituals?

"Not really, I just try to get prepared.'"