Photos by Becky LaMont / Illinois Matmen
By JARED BELL
Riley Palm isn’t your typical wrestler.
He fights two battles every time he walks onto the mat.
A 138-pound junior at Carmel, Palm is diabetic, but he hasn’t let it get in the way of pursing his love of wrestling.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was four years old, so I know how to deal with it,” Palm said. “The way I look at it, I’m just like everybody else. When you’re out on the mat, Diabetes doesn’t mean anything.”
At Saturday’s IHSA State Tournament championship round, Palm proved that he’s not like everyone else.
Facing two-time defending Class 2A state champion and Chicago Washington senior We Rachal, Palm took control early and never let up as the Corsairs’ star defeated Rachal by an 11-1 major decision to win the 2A 138-pound state title.
“I’m a big believer in dreaming it, believing it and thinking it out,” Palm said. “That’s what I’ve done all year, and it’s paid off.”
It was Palm’s first state title and Carmel’s first-ever state championship.
“This is unbelievable,” Palm said. “I have no words right now. It’s amazing.”
Just like all of what Palm has overcome.
Diagnosed with Diabetes at 14 months old, he never let it stop him from wrestling.
Palm does have an insulin pump and says he has felt his blood sugar drop during matches which causes him to feel lightheaded and heavy-footed.
“Pretty much, it’s just like wrestling with the flu,” Palm said. “It’s not fun at all.”
It also forced him to keep a close eye on his weight as last year when he tried to cut weight, he encountered a bevy of issues.
“I’m not really allowed to cut weight,” Palm said. “I learned that the hard way last year and that’s how I got all my injuries – my body wasn’t good enough. And that was from the Diabetes not being able to keep up.”
Last winter, seven weeks before the state tournament, Palm tore his meniscus and sprained two ligaments in his left knee. He had surgery to repair the injury and within a week he stopped using his crutches.
He advanced throughout the postseason last year and advanced to the state tournament, where he re-tore his meniscus in his left knee and sprained every ligament in his right knee. The setback forced Palm to injury default to sixth place.
“It sucked, to be honest,” Palm said. “I had to be carried off the mat and I had to forfeit to sixth place. It was not fun at all.”
That made this year’s state tournament – and Saturday night’s title match – even more gratifying.
After Palm won his first two state matches by first-period fall, he defeated Peoria Notre Dame junior Leo Mushinsky 3-1 in sudden victory Friday night to advance to the finals against Rachal, who was looking for his third-straight state title.
Palm controlled the match from start to finish as he made it look easy en route to the state-title winning 11-1 major decision.
“I had a really good game plan going in,” Palm said. “I knew to stay low, work my underhooks and I knew that if I got him up a little bit and a little higher than he usually is that he’d get uncomfortable. That’s exactly what I did, and I dominated him on his feet.”
With the win, Palm also finished off an undefeated 41-0 season.
“I knew I was going to win from the start,” Palm said of the title match. “When I went in, I was like, ‘I’m not losing this match.’ The way I looked at it was he has two (state titles) and I don’t have one. I was hungrier for it, and it showed on the mat.”
It also showed to everyone that anything is possible, and that Diabetes doesn’t have to be a deterrent.
“(A wrestler with Diabetes) is so rare that I don’t really know of any other wrestler who’s diabetic,” Palm said. “I would love to talk to another diabetic wrestler and just ask them how it is for them.”
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