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BURNOUT: : Joe ‘Prep’ Athlete Has Everything Going for Him--Right? Not Always. He’s Often a Victim of His Own Talent and Faces Undo Pressures : Football to Wrestling : Camarillo’s Hickman Sits at Home, Waiting for His Injury to Heal

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Most of the football players at Camarillo High School are feeling tip-top this days. Their Coastal Conference football championship has had a chance to sink in. The winter holiday recess is in full swing.

Relatives have been filled in on the heroics via Christmas cards, and the players have been able to enjoy the feel of wearing their powder blue Scorpion lettermen’s jackets complete with new Southern Section title patches sewn on.

Meanwhile, one of the principles of the team’s success, all-league and All-Valley offensive tackle Matt Hickman, sits at home, slightly sedated by pain-killers, his arm in a sling from an elbow injury incurred in the title game.

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The 6-3, 275-pound senior is a member of an elite fraternity of modern-day ironmen, however, so don’t expect him to be down for long.

Hickman competes at a championship level in back-to-back sports, and despite his current misfortune, he is busy trying to drop 30 pounds by mid-January so he can wrestle.

“I’ll lose the weight after a couple of jogs,” he said just before Christmas.

Hickman has been equally honored on the football field and the wrestling mat. He has been the varsity wrestler in the heavyweight class at Camarillo since his freshman year, finishing third in the Southern Section’s 4-A Division last season after qualifying as two-time Marmonte League champion.

“I should have won CIF,” Hickman said. “I had pinned both of the guys that beat me earlier in the year. The guy who finished second, I had pinned him six times.”

Obviously, Hickman has gained a measure of self-assurance along with the awards. A look at some of his short-range goals:

“Lose the weight, let the elbow heal in time for a few matches before the league wrestle-offs, then bring home that CIF title . . .

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“Play major college football, then in 1987 I’ll redshirt and give the Olympic wrestle-offs a try. Of course, I hope I’m good enough for pro football by then.”

Quite an itinerary.

“Matt’s a big boy, and he thinks big, too,” Camarillo wrestling Coach Charlie Festerling said. “Not many kids compete in back-to-back sports, and even fewer as well as Hickman, but I don’t think he’s ever considered anything else.”

Hickman’s confidence is exceeded only by his self-motivation.

“Last year, I made the switch no problem,” Hickman said. “I was real fatigued and beat up from football and I took two days off. But then I asked myself, ‘If I don’t go out now, when?’ I feel like I should have gone right into wrestling this year. I don’t like telling people I’m not wrestling because I’m hurt. I have a reputation to keep up.”

The elbow has been painful due to internal bleeding and swelling. It got serious enough for a doctor to prescribe the pain-killers and tell him to rest, which poses a problem.

Even though Hickman can’t wrestle until mid-January, he must drop to 247 pounds, the maximum weight for high school wrestlers in California.

“Roadwork builds stamina to go three two-minute wrestling periods,” Festerling said. “A guy like Matt has to be strong enough to throw people as big as himself to the mat.”

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Washington, Nebraska and Arizona State are among the schools recruiting him in football. In wrestling, Hickman is just one outstanding season away from receiving the same kind of attention.

It will probably take more than “a couple of jogs” to return to top wrestling shape, but Hickman knows his potential in the sport makes it worth the effort.

He is already the architect of a great reputation. Now he is working on future plans.

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