Losses heal over time, but quitting never does.
After a subpar outing at the Penn State Invitational in early December, fifth-year senior and wrestling captain Scott Giffin felt a strange pain in his shoulder every time he stepped onto the mat. On Dec. 12, he suffered an uncharacteristic loss to an unranked opponent at Rider.
He needed a break.
“At that point in time, I realized my shoulder wasn’t together, and my head wasn’t in it and neither was my heart, to be honest,” said the 174-pounder, who stopped practicing with the team from mid-December through Jan. 1.
Giffin’s hiatus meant that the Red and Blue would be without their most successful wrestler from a year ago. A three-time NCAA qualifier, Giffin finished seventh in the NCAA tournament en route to becoming an NCAA All-American.
During his time away from the team, Giffin concentrated on finals and took a mental break from wrestling. In the meantime, he kept thinking about whether he wanted to continue with the sport. Even after his return to practice, he wasn’t sure.
The day after his loss to Rider, he rested from practice, and told coach Rob Eiter his intentions.
“I was going to hang it up,” Giffin said somberly. “I didn’t want to go out every day to practice and go home not being able to lay down … because I was in pain.”
After talking to his parents, Giffin couldn’t believe he wouldn’t be finishing what he started. He began wrestling before his fifth birthday, traveled across the country for tournaments, won a high school state championship and received numerous college scholarships.
But for Giffin, that story wouldn’t have had an ending.
The next night, Giffin went out to dinner with teammates Rollie Peterkin, Mark Rappo and Thomas Shovlin. What began as a night to “hang out with the guys,” according to Giffin, ended with a catharsis.
Peterkin, a fellow fifth-year senior, looked Giffin straight in the eye and asked if the rumors of him quitting were true.
“I think I’m done,” Giffin recalled responding. “I don’t want to go out on that mat … and barely make it through the seven minutes. I won’t do it to you, I won’t do it to them, and I won’t do it to my family.
“I was raised that if you’re going to try something you should do it 100 percent and that’s not 100 percent in my eyes,” Giffin continued.
But that didn’t deter the trio, which managed to talk Giffin into taking his time and coming back for the league and NCAA tournament championships.
So Giffin started rehabbing on an Airdyne — a combination of a stationary bike with elliptical arms — and resistance bands.
Day by day, Giffin’s strength returned. Slowly and methodically he moved from the Airdyne to a treadmill, from resistance bands to five-pound dumbbells and finally from drills to live wrestling.
The injury has forced him to fine tune his technique and he has become religious about icing his shoulder.
Giffin’s rehab culminated this past weekend when he returned for his first match since Dec. 12, sporting a black brace that covers his now “good” left shoulder up to the elbow.
He finished the weekend with dominating wins in matches over Harvard’s David Lalo and Brown’s Seth Nolan — both by 11 point margins — and a third win in a forfeit against Princeton.
“We don’t expect anything less than him being an All-American again,” coach Rob Eiter said. “He is probably one of the most talented kids I’ve ever seen. We’re not looking just to qualify — we’re looking to finish on the podium.”
Although Giffin missed nearly two months, he remains spirited in his return. “I don’t think there has been a single thing in my life I have ever quit,” Giffin said. “I owed it to my family to finish up. I owed it to the coaches and the guys on the team to stick with it.”
Back on the mat, Giffin is now ready to write the last chapter in his story.
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