By TREY WILLIAMS
Daniel Boone senior Isabella Badon had major surgeries on her hip and shoulder prior to her senior season, but the three-time state champion’s spirit was always strong while trying to pin down a four-peat.
And sure enough, the irrepressible Badon overcame extreme adversity to win her fourth straight state title on Feb. 16.
Badon (28-5) edged Elizabethton’s Tyesha Thomas, 3-2, for the title in what was selected as the tournament’s most outstanding match.
Thomas defeated Badon three times during the season, which was understandable. Badon was coming off surgeries for torn labrums in her hip and shoulder. She also had a torn biceps tendon, bone chips and torn cartilage. She had six screws put in her hip and four more in her shoulder.
Badon wasn’t allowed to run all summer. She couldn’t get on a mat until early November and wasn’t allowed to start wrestling until December, at which point she had mono.
“At least mono helped me lose weight,” she said with a chuckle.
Boone coach Matt Montgomery marveled at Badon’s resolve.
“I have never had the honor of coaching someone with so much grit and perseverance,” Montgomery said. “She is the epitome of what it means to be a champion.”
Granted, even Badon was worried about being able to return to the top of the mountain. Matter of fact, she wasn’t certain she’d wrestle again after last year’s season-ending hip dislocation.
“During practice I would be like, ‘Coach, I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I don’t think I’m gonna be that good whenever I get back onto that mat,’” she said. “And every time he said, ‘You might not be there fully, but you’ll be able to win it.’ And he was right. I wasn’t back fully, but I was able to win it.”
Montgomery was invaluable in Badon’s recovery.
“He helped me a lot whenever I first got hurt and I ended up wrestling in the national duals and then having the surgery,” Badon said. “After last season, I just sat on the mat and cried because I did not think I’d ever wrestle again. It was very bad. I’m not sure that he didn’t feel the same thing, but he was always very confident and he would say, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be able to wrestle again.’ …
“This year we would go running around 6 a.m. before I had to go to school – and we would do them whenever it was cold, too.”
Badon finished her career with 105 wins, 11 losses and four state titles.
“Isabella has truly reaped what she sewed,” Montgomery said. “She has tremendous work ethic. Ever since I have known her she has gone above and beyond in order to reach her goals. She has morning practices and practices after practices. She lifts daily after practice and always finds extra practices in other rooms on weekends. She is her own worst critic. She continuously watches video of herself wrestling and works to fix mistakes and improve on her technique. She is super coachable and applies everything that is taught to her on the mat.
“Last December, Bella tore her labrum in her shoulder while wrestling. She was told that she could have surgery then but would be out for the rest of the season. She chose to endure the pain and finish out the season. Later in January of that same season, she tore the labrum in her hip and injured some ligaments in her knee. I thought at this time her season and maybe even her career were over. But three weeks later she limped onto the mat and won her third straight state championship.”
Badon also enthusiastically credits coaches Cassidy Ferrell, Michael Scott, Anthony Hagee and Junior Hernandez for helping in her development, as well as the inspiration and instruction from her father (Doug) and brother (Hunter).
“My brother’s the whole reason I started wrestling,” Badon said. “He’s seven years older than me and when I was young I would watch him wrestle and he would dominate on the mat. I thought he was so awesome and I still think he’s so amazing, and want to be as good as him.”
Badon plans to wrestle in college at Presbyterian, Lyon (Arkansas) or Gammon (Pennsylvania). She hopes to wrestle in the Olympics as well. And after this season, it’d be difficult to count her out.
Even the optimistic, passionate Badon was skeptical about getting a fourth title.
“Every time that I did it was amazing,” she said, “but this time was like the most amazing.”