CANFIELD - It was only fitting that the first time Korey Frost felt healthy, he also felt pain.
Two knee surgeries in less than a year and a broken collarbone at one of the biggest wrestling tournaments of the year got Frost acclimated to battling through injuries. His latest suffering didn't have to do with an injury, per se, and, oddly enough, the feeling let the Canfield senior know that he's finally nearing 100 percent.
"I'm finishing first in sprints, but I'm still huffing and puffing," said Frost of winning the sprints the Cardinals run during conditioning. "It's been a while (since I finished first). We have a lot of fast guys on the team, so it's hard to win sprints because everyone wants to push hard, and they're fast. It feels good to win them - well, not physically."
The burning sensation in his lungs as he runs full speed after a grueling practice wasn't something Frost necessarily missed, but the fact he has the ability to do it tells him the excruciating time he spent watching his teammates from the bench might finally be over.
"I'm 100 percent," he said before pausing. "Well, maybe my conditioning can improve."
Once the huffing and puffing is gone, the former state qualifier will be even more dangerous than he already is for the Cardinals, who claimed the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League, Division I dual-meet title on Saturday.
Frost is a big reason they earned their third championship in four seasons. He's currently 21-2, with his only losses coming to a pair of the top-ranked kids in the state. His most recent defeat was to Collin Dees of Perry, the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the Division II, 120-pound weight class, according to several publications. Frost was winning the match, 5-2, late in the third period at the Perry Pin City Invitational on Jan. 4, but he gave up a four-point move in the final seconds and lost, 6-5.
Yet, considering Frost tore his meniscus twice last season and then suffered a fractured clavicle at the district tournament - a week after he injured his knee for the second time but continued to wrestle on it - he'll take a 21-2 record and a clean bill of health this far into his senior season.
"Korey's wrestling really well," Canfield coach Dean Conley said. "He's someone who we always wanted him to realize how good he was, and I think he's starting to realize how good he can be. Even though he lost to Dees over the weekend, he realizes he's right there. There's not much separating him from the kids at the very top. He's had a great year."
Conley said Frost has always been particularly good from the top position - using an array of moves to turn his opponents to their backs - but that part of his wrestling isn't what is making this season his best. Frost, along with a few other Cardinals, hopes to place high at the State Wrestling Tournament in Columbus this March, and if that's going to happen, it's their weaknesses that need to improve.
"We're not trying to tear them down, but if your goal is be on the podium in Columbus, we're going to treat you like that kind of athlete," Conley said. "Sometimes, constructive criticism comes with that. Kids walk off the mat after a win, and we say, 'Hey, that's a bad match for you. You didn't do any of the things you needed to do to get better.' Sometimes good kids just want to work on what they're good at. ... Kids are buying in and they're understanding what we're trying to do."
Frost, ranked sixth in the state at 120 pounds by some publications, agreed that he's starting to realize his potential - he's even considering continuing the sport in college. He admitted to not always giving it his all as a freshman and sophomore, but after injuries nearly cut his career short, those days are in the past.
"This year, since it's my last year, and I don't have anything after this, I'm just going 100 percent," Frost said. "This is my life. I don't want to worry about anything else right now except for wrestling."