Courtesy of A. Paddock
Some may have had their doubts, but Aaron Paddock always believed that he would get back on the mat.
“I always knew I was going to wrestle,” he said. “It crossed other people’s minds, but it didn’t ever cross my mind that I wasn’t gonna wrestle again.”
As many in the wrestling community know, in the summer of 2011, Paddock suffered a significant head injury and doctors were initially unsure whether he would survive.
However, as documented in one of the first articles ever written on this website (see link here), Paddock made an incredible recovery - and did it well ahead of the timetable that the medical community thought was possible.
So, in the fall of 2012, he did return to action for Warsaw High School.
The last time he had competed for the Tigers, Paddock was a 103-pound seventh grader who earned a trip to the state tournament and nabbed sixth.
After overcoming so much, he was back, but he was no longer a lightweight. He competed at 170 and 182 pounds, but the change in weight didn't stop the wins from piling up. In fact, he got his hand raised over 80 times combined in his triumphant return to the sport during his 9th and 10th grade seasons.
And as a junior, Paddock took the next step, returning to the place he wanted to be -- the state championships.
“It was so different than my seventh grade year,” he said of his trip to Albany in February. “Last year it was just another tournament, but bigger. I was more calm and more ready than I was in seventh grade.”
He began with a technical fall in his opener at the Times Union Center before taking an early lead against Putnam Valley’s Willie Messinger at 170 pounds. Messinger made a comeback, however, and won by fall.
But Paddock bounced back strong, with two first period pins and a 12-1 major to set up a rematch with Messinger for third.
“I just didn’t make the mistake of getting headlocked the second time,” Paddock said. “Not much else was really different.”
The outcome was different, however, as Paddock prevailed 7-2 and finished his second All-State showing with a bronze medal.
He then picked up more hardware at Fargo, as he took sixth place in Junior Greco Roman action.
“I was happy; I wrestled a lot of really tough kids,” he said. “There were some little mistakes I made that could’ve made differences in the matches. I trained as hard as I could.”
He’s continued to put in the work, as he has set some significant goals for his final high school campaign.
“I plan on going and winning Eastern States, [New York] states, Senior Nationals and then Fargo,” he said.
And then it will be on to Edinboro, a team that took third at the NCAA tournament in 2015.
Paddock gave his verbal commitment to head coach Tim Flynn last week after a recent visit to the campus. While two of his siblings attended Edinboro, Paddock said the family ties didn’t influence his choice.
“It was mainly that it just felt right,” he said. “I like the coaches and the wrestlers and I felt like it was the place I could improve my skills the best.”
Paddock said he considered Iowa (where his brother Burke is a redshirt freshman) and the University at Buffalo, but Edinboro “felt the most like home to me.”
There was a time when other people thought Paddock might not set foot on a wrestling mat again. He wasn’t one of them … and he’s now set to compete at the next level.
“I always planned on wrestling in college and wrestling my best there,” he said. “Going to college without wrestling - that just wouldn’t seem right to me. Wrestling shaped who I am and who I will be. It’s always been such a big part of my life.”
Aaron Paddock thanked his coaches “who have all had a way of shaping my life to the way it is now” and thanked his family. He also wanted to express gratitude to “the doctors for getting me back to being healthy. Without them, I could not even be here.”