Much is made of Spencer Lee’s ACL injuries or Tony Ferguson’s comeback fight after multiple knee injuries, but Riley Augustine explains that that’s just the life you expect as a combat athlete.
Since 2016, the Campbell University junior has suffered stingers, bumps, bruises and four knee surgeries in his quest for wrestling greatness.
After three surgeries on his right knee alone, his surgeon likely could pick his ligaments out of a lineup. Augustine doesn’t feel sorry for himself or make himself the victim despite the bad luck, and actually explains that if you took out every wrestler to experience shoulder or knee injuries from wrestling, you’d only have half the field remaining.
At 165 pounds, Augustine may not require the quickness and explosivity that a Spencer Lee may lean on to be effective, but says that if you want to be great in the sport of wrestling, adaptability is almost as important as raw skill and athleticism.
“I focus on finishing tough,” Augustine said. “There’s obviously some ways my knee is not going to move, but I’ve learned to adjust my style to not get into those positions. In wrestling you get in a lot of positions where you’re rolling around and a guy can get you in a position where your knee can be uncomfortable, so I try to avoid those positions.”
Growing up, Augustine had submerged himself in a life of all sports, from MMA to wrestling to football, etc. But after watching his body slowly start to turn into “the best version circumstances will allow,” he had to make a difficult choice between sports.
“When I tore my knee the first time I kind of took a step back with all the sports I was involved in,” Augustine said. “With football, wrestling and MMA it was a lot of pressure. I knew I needed to be less impactful, and I ultimately knew I loved wrestling, so I decided to just stick with wrestling.”
Augustine remembers how much he enjoyed the other sports, but has enjoyed a life of less body trauma quite a bit. He may have had to leave MMA behind at 16 years old after five years of training, but fighters like Nate Diaz, Cowboy Cerrone and others have made enjoying the sport from afar almost as fun as being in the thick of the action.
The way athletes bounce back and roll with injuries is definitely unique to every athlete, but Augustine has thrived in the unpredictability of the life he and almost half the field deals with, and there’s little he would change.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be at 100%, but some days I’m at 95% and I feel good,” Augustine said. “Then other days I’m in pain and I’m at 80%, 70%, but I always do my recovery and make sure my knees aren’t hurting. I stretch all the time and do as much as I can to not have as many bad days.”
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