Wrestling doesn't bring Hunter Rucklos any great accolades. No titles. Little individual glory.
When the Chesterton senior dislocated his left shoulder and partially tore his labrum late in the football season, it would have been easy for him to take the winter off to heal.
There was no chance.
"I love wrestling," Rucklos said. "I was upset about football. I'd played football since I was 8. As soon as I found out I had to sit out the rest of football season, I made sure I was good for wrestling."
Rucklos was medically cleared to return to the mat with the caveat that he wear a brace on his left shoulder.
"It bothers me some days, but it's not like it's pain that I can't get through," he said. "It's nothing really big."
Rucklos is 8-7, largely at 138 pounds, Heading into Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference meet. The record is modest, but it's a quantum leap from last season, when he went 9-25 and finished fifth at 132 in the LaPorte Sectional.
"I could handle a whole team of Hunters," Chesterton coach Chris Joll said. "He's had his fair share of problems, like everybody else, but he's not one for complaining, for making excuses. He's always in the room. He's always there on time, working his butt off, saying 'yes sir.' He's a nice athlete, a very coachable kid. He does what he's told to do and sticks with things that work."
Rucklos had never wrestled before when he came out his sophomore season at the encouragement of some classmates.
"I was already in two sports (football and track) and wanted to do a third," he said. "Some friends thought it would be a good idea to wrestle because I was stronger and smaller. It's probably the toughest sport I've ever been in, but I like to push myself, in academics and sports. I like the conditioning. Friends like Chris (Katsafaros), I strive to be as good as him. I thought I could be up there maybe."
Realistically, Rucklos knows he's not likely to make a deep postseason run and vie for a state title like Katsafaros. That doesn't deter his efforts.
"I love winning," Rucklos said. "I take it bad when I lose, but when I get over it, I think about what I did wrong and ask the coaches what I need to do to get better. I want to be the best at what I do. I may not be the best but I know if I try, the hard work will help me later in life. Wrestling's pretty tough. I know if I can get through it, I can get through basically anything."
A 3.6 student, Rucklos plans to attend Purdue and aspires to be a radiologist.
"I want to go into the medical field, but something that doesn't involve so much blood," he said.
Rucklos' name probably won't end up on the practice room wall, but that doesn't mean he won't be missed.
"He's a great senior, a great leader," Joll said. "He's one of those kids who's gotten something from wrestling and who gives something back. He's gotten better as a wrestler and better as a person. When they're done, that's how you want them to be."