Sweet end for Sauer
Wade Sauer walked off the mat like it was any other match.
He didn’t erupt in emotion, dance a jig of jubilation or even point his index finger in the air to signify the fact that he, now for certain, is the No. 1 heavyweight wrestler in the state of California.
Such a stoic scene might have caught onlookers off guard, but it didn’t surprise anyone who watched the Nevada Union senior’s every step of his path to prominence.
“Wade’s not an extremely emotional person,” said NU head coach Shane Valdez. “I don’t know when I’ve ever seen him get emotional. But he was excited. He just holds it in.
“And that was a big boy he was wrestling. He probably was pretty tired, too.”
The boy he beat was considered by many to be the best the rest of California had to offer. Alex Mack, a San Marcos High senior, was ranked No. 2 in the state by The California Wrestler Newsletter.
Of course, Sauer was No. 1.
The fact that he was considered the one to beat all season long makes the feat even more phenomenal. After taking third place in the state as an unranked 215-pounder in 2003, “Sauer” was no longer an unknown name across California.
Such a showing as a junior only increased expectations for his senior season, but no one expected more from Sauer than the North San Juan native himself.
“I’m going to win,” was the headline The Union placed above last Wednesday’s “Prep Profile” that shared Sauer’s story as he prepared for his return to the state finals. But those words, Sauer’s own, were almost amended just before press time.
In taking a final look at the headline, in addition to fretting over possibly jinxing his performance – in fashion similar to the well-chronicled Sports Illustrated cover curse – I wondered if such a statement would be placing too much pressure on the shoulders of a high school teenager.
They weren’t just his words, though.
“I’m going to win” is his way of life.
It’s a fine line between being confident and cocky and Sauer toes it as well as any athlete I’ve covered. That confidence of knowing he’s going to win eliminates any potential distractions from the job at hand in pressure-packed situations.
“Wade has never folded or has let the pressure get to him,” Valdez said. “And he didn’t (Saturday) night. He just went out there and got after it.”
It was just another day on the job for Sauer, who says he is simply in the business to win wrestling matches. His first varsity bout, as a freshman in 2001, showed that very same approach, as he pinned his opponent to give Nevada Union its 11th-straight league championship and keep the Miners 71 Capital Athletic League dual meet win streak alive.
Pressure, it seems, just doesn’t apply.
The final destination of this journey, his final one in a Nevada Union singlet, was even more impressive considering what he’s been through the past month. He came down with full-blown pneumonia just before the Sac-Joaquin Section Team Duals and an allergic reaction to prescribed antibiotics initially only complicated his climb back.
By the time the state tournament began with the subsections, he’d shed some pounds – cutting weight not exactly being a good thing for a heavyweight – and his lung capacity left him running on empty. His third-place finish might have disappointed Sauer – as well as given future opponents false hope – but it earned him a ticket to the section championships and another week to get well.
Seven days later he was crowned section champion for the second straight season and was headed to Bakersfield to take care of what he considered to be unfinished business from the 2003 state meet.
While racking up three wins on Friday night, including one by pin in the quarterfinals, Sauer sustained a twisted ankle and a strained back – once again adding potential distractions from what he had to do. His coaches taped the ankle and stretched his back, but knew neither would stand in his way.
“Wade had heart,” said NU assistant coach Gary Sumner. “He still wasn’t fully recovered from the pneumonia. He told me ‘I may not be 100 percent but I’ve got enough to win it.’ He was not to be denied. He’s a pretty amazing kid.”
Even though the state champ’s crowning celebration – or lack thereof – might have had others wondering if he had a pulse,
Sauer said he was certainly smiling on the inside.
“There was some emotion. I just didn’t show it,” he said. “I’m happy that all the years of hard work have paid off. As far as emotions go, actually I’m tickled to death.”
And as we all learned this week, when it comes to Wade Sauer, you won’t go wrong in taking his word for it.
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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With a balanced offensive attack and a strong defensive effort, the Nevada Union football team went on the road Friday night and knocked off Napa, 33-14