Sentinel Senior Battles Injuries Throughout Wrestling Career - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Sentinel Senior Battles Injuries Throughout Wrestling Career

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Each year in Montana, 20 high school seniors are nominated to represent Montana in the Wendy's High School Heisman program, and after meeting one Sentinel senior, it's pretty easy to see why he is considered one of the best and brightest.

Since he was little, Erik Mason knew he was at home on the wrestling mat.

"The adrenaline rush, getting out there, performing in front of a crowd, having everyone behind you," says the now senior at Sentinel, Mason.

And it didn't take long for Varsity coaches to notice, when as a freshman, he went up against a junior to challenge for a spot on the varsity team, something that could cause a little trouble if an upperclassmen was demoted.  

"(Erik) Mason is losing the match about 15 seconds left, he hits a head and arm, and beats this kid in the first varsity wrestle-off.  And as a coach I said 'oh no', I knew the aftermath was not going to be pretty, but Mason knew that's what he was there to do, and he did it," says Sentinel wrestling coach Jeremy LaPorte.

But for as talented and hard working as Erik was, he was equally unlucky.  Multiple shoulder injuries turned into multiple surgeries, causing him to miss plenty of time.  But after rehabbing and training at least four hours a day during the spring, things came crashing down for a final time.

"Was over in Great Falls this last summer and fell weird again, and it all came out, it didn't feel right, and I went to the Doctor, and he told me it wasn't there anymore, and I couldn't do it," says Mason.

With his identity so tied to his wrestling success, the abrupt change in plans his senior year were difficult to face.

"It was hard for awhile, it was hard to face everyone who had been there for me all along," says Mason.

"I had to tell him it was fine, and that no one was mad at you, it is what it is, if you can't do it, you can't do it," adds LaPorte.

While his goal of a senior year wrestling title won't happen, he's still busy as ever, picking up cross-country in the fall, and just last year leading the charge on a community service project, which took over 150 hours, and included a front page story in the paper.

"I knew it was time I gave back, and what better thing to do than give something that can teach others, so I worked with the forest service on creating an informational sign up in the Selway, Bitterroot," says Mason.

Even though he won't be scoring points on the mats, his time with the Sentinel Wrestling team isn't over, as Erik will spend the season as a mentor to the younger wrestlers, and travel with the team.

"He realizes what people have done for him, and he wants to give back, and he'll continue to give back.  That's just who he is," says LaPorte.

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