Maryland wrestling 133-pounder Billy Rappo writhed in pain, pounding his fists into the mat, as he struggled to stand up after Drexel's Kevin Devoy Jr. twisted him to the ground Feb. 18.
Rappo finished the match, losing in a 6-1 decision to No. 11 Devoy, but faced a tough test to overcome the setback in preparation for the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Indiana, two weeks later.
The redshirt senior recovered in time and placed ninth to earn an automatic qualification to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, which begin March 16.
Redshirt sophomore 141-pounder Ryan Diehl and redshirt senior 149-pounder Alfred Bannister, who each also fought through injuries during the season, advanced, too.
"Battling the injuries, it was huge," coach Kerry McCoy said. "We had to be smart, we had to be disciplined with their rehab and treatment and doing the things they needed to do to give themselves a chance. Our medical staff did a good job of monitoring their progress.
"It was definitely special for those three guys."
Rappo wrestled in all but one dual match this season but faced a quick recovery for the conference championships. He spent the first week rehabilitating and then assessed the best ways to wrestle with the injury in the days entering the tournament.
"I tweaked it a little bit throughout the week, but regardless, you've got to put that in the backseat," Rappo said. "You just kind of have to wrestle through it."
Diehl, meanwhile, wrestled three matches at the Mat Town Open on Nov. 27 before missing all of December and January with an undisclosed injury.
He returned Feb. 3 and pinned Indiana's Cole Weaver in his dual-match debut, finishing 3-2 in duals this season.
The 13th-seeded Diehl upset three top-six seeds, including Penn State's No. 2-seed Jimmy Gulibon, at the conference competition to earn fifth.
"It's been a crazy year," Diehl said. "I was just trying to get back to 100 percent and be able to get back on the mat, then we just kept building from there. It's been an awesome last half of the season, being able to join the team."
Bannister, ranked No. 15 in the nation by InterMat, went undefeated in duals before a knee injury sidelined him for the final month of the regular season. The Terps paced Bannister during that stretch to ensure he would be at full strength entering the tournament.
Before the weekend, Bannister admitted the injury might hamper him, but he hoped his preparation would mask the potential lapses. The redshirt sophomore was right, medically forfeiting in the fifth place match to earn sixth for the final automatic qualification spot.
McCoy said his staff preaches self-belief and confidence as the primary way to overcome injury, and three qualifiers' performances represented that philosophy.
"It was a little unfortunate, but I still got the job done," Rappo said. "I'm still moving on to NCAAs, which is all that matters."