It was an all too common occurrence in Chad Miller's matches last season.
His wrapped and braced shoulder would pop out of its socket and have to be put back in place in order for him to continue.
"It was really heart-wrenching to watch," said Valparaiso coach Jim Smith, who is also Miller's stepdad. "There were times he had tears in his eyes, it hurt so much. Kids don't realize how lucky they are to stay healthy."
Miller shredded the labrum and rotator cuff in his shoulder in practice just before the start of the season. The prospect of not wrestling, he said, never crossed his mind, and he gutted it out through 18 matches.
"It was very frustrating after what happened the previous year," Miller said, referring to an elbow injury that prematurely ended his sophomore season. "It was hard to keep going through the pain. It just got progressively worse."
After a narrow first-round loss in the regional, Miller underwent arthroscopic surgery in March. He was cleared to resume training in July and returned to competition about a month ago.
"It was definitely a big relief," he said. "I couldn't wait to finally be 100 percent. It feels great to be in here healthy. I can focus less on hurting and more on my technique. As strange as it may sound, I think it might've helped me out a little bit. I had to switch up my style. After having been through it all, it made me crave wrestling more. It's been like a catalyst. It made me work harder."
Smith and assistant coach Matt Hemry, a former Portage standout, helped Miller through the mental process of putting the injury behind him. It was an obstacle at first, but Miller has gradually worked past it, standing 12-3 at 130 pounds, his losses all close decisions against two state-ranked foes.
"They told me you've got to go out there like nothing ever happened," Miller said. "I'm progressing. I feel better every time out. I'm a firm believer that you can always work harder. I have goals I want to reach and that's the only way to reach them. No slacking. I'm looking to be ready for a good post-season, and if I keep my focus, keep working hard and watching tape, it will come."
Miller's importance to the team isn't solely in his success on the mat. He is one of two seniors in a lineup with 10 freshmen and sophomores.
"Chad's a great mentor in the room," Smith said. "He's our most physical guy, and he's showing the younger guys how to wrestle physically. Coming from junior high, they're not used to that. You get in that ring, it's a fight, and they need to see what it's all about. He is really helping them develop through his example."
However his season plays out, Miller can feel good knowing he'll leave the reviving Valpo program better than how he found it as a freshman.
"If I work hard, then they'll work hard. We'll each get better individually and we'll get better as a team," he said. "My coaches and teammates help me bring out my potential. We all feed off each other's energy. We're building something really good here."