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which delayed his junior cross-country season. Pooler made it back with a month to go

Time:2018-05-14 22:10Shoes websites Click:

Sports Succeed three surgeries Five

Those words didn't bode well for the reporter with 50 column inches at his disposal.

Pooler is a 6-foot, 175-pound senior that, even in khaki work pants and a black hoodie following his half-day shift at Minnesuing Acres, looks like an athlete. He's a wrestler and runner, though the latter pursuit was supposed to be a mere conditioning tool for the former. Pooler's first love was wrestling, and the relationship began before he could tie his shoes.

Something funny happened along the way. Pooler kept getting faster. This, despite a string of bad luck that resulted in five surgeries over about 20 months.

The first, in July 2016, was for a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which delayed his junior cross-country season. Pooler made it back with a month to go, ran to a Heart O'North Conference title and finished 12th at the Wisconsin Division 2 state meet, covering 5 kilometers in 16 minutes and 36.26 seconds.

"If he would have had a full season, there's no doubt in my mind he would've been a state champion," said Phil McGrath, who, along with Jenny Forsythe, coaches the Tigers cross country and track teams.

Added Forsythe: "He's the toughest kid I've ever worked with in my life. You want to talk about heart and grit, he's the embodiment of that."

He's also a silver-lining kind of guy, this tireless teenager with a 4.069 high school grade-point average. Pooler says the labrum tear occurred at the "perfect time." Coming off a sophomore year in which he qualified for state in cross country, wrestling and track, he was feeling pretty good about himself. The injury, he says, grounded him and drove home precisely how precarious success can be.

Pooler responded by working even harder. After finishing 12th at the state cross-country meet on limited training, he "believed that I could recover from every surgery thereafter."

He'd get the chance. Four of 'em, in fact.

The Wednesday before the 2017 HON wrestling tournament, where the Tigers were determined to claim the program's first league championship, Pooler noticed a lump on his left knee. It grew like a bag of popcorn in the microwave, prompting a trip to the emergency room. There, he was diagnosed with a staph infection. The next morning, his knee had ballooned to the size of a softball. Pooler would undergo two surgeries, curtailing his junior season on the mat.

But not the track.

A rapid rehabber, Pooler was cleared to run early in the spring. He went on to win three events — 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters — at the HON championships last May.

Then he tore the meniscus in his right knee. Surgery No. 4.

Pooler spent the summer in an immobilizer brace, a brutal bout of inactivity for someone unaccustomed to downtime. He participated in just one cross-country race last fall, but was healthy entering his final wrestling campaign. At a two-day tournament in River Falls, Wis., just after Christmas, his meniscus popped again.

Decision time. Pooler had two options — have part of his meniscus removed immediately in hopes of being ready for track, or finish wrestling and then have surgery. He opted to wait, wanting to get through at least one full season as a senior. Plus, Northwestern had that elusive team crown to win. It did so in February.

"There are no guarantees once I get it out, so I wasn't even going to be guaranteed a track season if I had it done right away," Pooler said of the meniscus. "That was the deciding factor. I didn't want to throw away what the team had been working for just because I was looking too far ahead at something that wasn't guaranteed."

Typical Pooler, those around him say. He might compete in individual sports, but his is a me-second mentality. Forsythe says he delights more in the success of his teammates than his own and is willing to sacrifice personal goals for the betterment of the Tigers.

Forsythe and McGrath have a nickname for Pooler, whose stubbornness matches his motivation. "Mr. Negotiator," they call him, because of his penchant for persuasion while coming back from injury. Always wanting to do more. They often have to rein him in.

"You can look at so many people who just give up after an injury and never even try to come back to a sport," said fellow Northwestern senior and mid-distance runner Tyler Davis. "For somebody to come back in two sports in one year after an injury and still compete in both of them, it's motivational to see that."

Despite running at somewhere between 60-70 percent this spring, Pooler's 800 time of 2:06 has him seeded second in the region and sixth in Sectional 1. And the Tigers' 3,200 relay, of which Pooler's a part, is tops in the sectional at 8:29.

"He has faced adversity over and over," Forsythe said. "He keeps coming back swinging."

For that, Pooler credits the folks around him. He specifically mentioned his family, coaches, girlfriend, friends and community members, because, as he says, "There is no way anyone could do this on their own."

Family scare

Adversity of a different kind struck in November 2015. Pooler, then a sophomore, got home from school along with his younger siblings — brother Zach, now a junior, and sister Natalie (freshman) — to find the house empty. It was the Friday before Wisconsin's deer-hunting opener, traditionally a big deal for the Poolers, who live about 20 miles southwest of Maple, in Bennett.

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