PINCKNEY — Brady Raymond doesn’t look like a wrestler who spent a year away from the sport.
The Pinckney junior decided not to wrestle last season, choosing instead to focus on preparation for football.
“A week or two after the season, I kind of regretted it,” Raymond said. “Then I realized I wanted to come back, so I got back into it. It’s working out for me so far.”
Showing no signs of rust, Raymond has gone 19-1 and is ranked sixth in Division 2 at 171 pounds by Michigan Grappler.
He won both of his matches Wednesday in a tri meet against Saline and Chelsea, including a second-period pin of 16th-ranked Nolan Sinkwitts of Chelsea.
“I’ve been waiting to get a ranked guy,” Raymond said. “I had a couple early on. I was up for the task. I’m glad I got the chance.”
Raymond burst onto the scene as a freshman, qualifying for the state tournament at 152 and going 40-12. It appeared the Pirates had a future star in their midst, but then Raymond stepped away from a sport in which he’s competed since he was 4 years old.
He played varsity football as a sophomore and had an even bigger role as a junior, ranking third on the team with 63 tackles in nine games. Raymond has been groomed to succeed Jimmy Bona as Pinckney’s starting quarterback next season.
“I was just talking with my coaches and everything, talked to coach (Jeremy) Little and said, ‘I think I’m gonna sit this one out, do football and focus on that for now.’ I definitely wish I did it last year, but I’m good where I’m at right now.”
Raymond knew he wanted to rejoin the wrestling team this winter, but the only time he was on the mat was for a camp early in the summer.
Once he stepped back into the wrestling room in November, it was as if he’d never been away.
“I thought he was going to be a little rusty coming back,” Pinckney coach Jeremy Little said. “He didn’t miss a beat.”
Raymond credits his teammates for making it a smooth transition back into wrestling mode.
“My teammates were there to support me,” he said. “They’ve all been doing it for a while with me. Lucas (Nagle), Lance (Trost) and Drake (Hurley), I’ve been wrestling with them for like 12 years. Just getting back in the room, they got me caught back up.”
A year away from wrestling may have Raymond flying a bit under the radar.
"I'd like to be ranked a little higher," he said. "It just sets me up for some upsets, that's for sure. Just keep working and prove everyone wrong."
What Pinckney (3-9) lacks in numbers, it makes up for in top-end talent.
The Pirates began the season with 16 wrestlers and are now down to nine. Two wrestlers missed Wednesday’s meet because of COVID issues, leaving Pinckney even more shorthanded in a 54-23 loss to Saline and a 51-29 loss to Chelsea.
Four of the wrestlers who took the mat on senior night at Pinckney are ranked in the top 10 in their weight divisions.
In addition to Raymond, Nagle is No. 4 at 135, Trost is No. 3 at 189 and Vinny Patierno is No. 10 at 215. They are a combined 89-7. Raymond’s only loss is 4-2 decision to Trost in the 189-pound championship match at the Herm Wilkinson Highlander Classic Dec. 11 in Howell.
Nagle is a two-time all-stater who was third in Division 2 at 135 last season, while Trost placed sixth at 189.
“It sets us up for success in the practice room and everything,” Raymond said. “I practice with Lance every single day. I get to know him. My one loss is to Lance. That’s not a bad loss. He’s a good wrestler, wrestling some good kids, high-ranked kids. It’s definitely good to be wrestling people like that.”
With three ranked wrestlers who are in adjacent weight classes, it gives each of them a quality practice partner as they chase their goals of becoming state champions.
“It’s been a huge help for all of them,” Little said. “Vinnie is strong, kind of beasty, so they get that strength. Vinnie’s getting the benefit of being quicker with those two. The three of them is like the best possible situation you can have in the room.”
Contact Bill Khan at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.
This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Pinckney wrestler who took year off among state's best