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Lockport’s Claudia Heeney takes heed, shuts down for a few weeks. How’s her comeback going? ‘She’s relentless.’

Claudia Heeney didn’t want to stop wrestling, so the Lockport sophomore pushed through the pain of a broken thumb and kept competing.

In early December, however, Heeney — a state runner-up last season — decided she needed to shut it down for a bit.

“It was definitely a tough decision,” she said. “I wasn’t going to take the time off, but it wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse.

“After the Donnybrook (Tournament in Iowa), I figured it was time to take care of what I needed to do first and then I could come back and wrestle.”

After about five weeks off, Heeney is back and preparing for the postseason, which begins for Porters on Friday and Saturday at the Shepard Regional.

There’s a new format for girls wrestling, with regional competition for the first time, leading into sectionals on Feb. 9-10.

Heeney made her return at Thursday’s Homewood-Flossmoor triangular, winning both her matches by pin.

“The injury was bothering her a little bit for a couple weeks and then it got a bit worse,” Lockport coach Nathaniel Roth said. “It was like, ‘Take a rest now. It’s better to do that and be ready for the postseason.’

“Now, she’s getting in a few matches before regionals, and we’re looking forward to seeing what she can do.”

Heeney said she initially suffered the injury in May, but she continued wrestling over the summer and started the high school season competing in two tournaments. That included the highly competitive Donnybrook, which featured 42 teams from several states.

She lost her quarterfinal match there. It was just her second high school defeat after she went 42-1 as a freshman, with the lone loss coming to Freeport’s Cadence Diduch in the 125-pound state championship match.

Heeney thought about stopping there but rallied to win her final two matches at the tournament and finish fifth.

“It was definitely special,” she said. “I did what I could. I had one tough loss and then I was considering not wrestling the next day because I was in a lot of pain.

“My parents were both like, ‘I think you can really learn something from this if you just push through a little bit tougher and dig down deep.’ I came back the next day and wrestled pretty well.”

Those were Heeney’s last matches until Thursday.

“I just had to restrict motion,” Heeney said of her thumb. “I put a brace on it for five weeks. I think sitting out has been tougher than the actual injury was.”

The whole time, Heeney was more than eager to get back on the mat.

“At practices, I’d just go work out every day and I was just wishing I was on the mat, so it was really awful,” she said. “At tournaments, it was really hard watching.

“Mentally, I got better, though, and I appreciated the sport a lot more.”

Roth is confident Heeney is ready to go in spite of the time off.

“She’s relentless,” he said. “She’s an amazing wrestler and a ridiculously hard worker. She probably got better workouts while she was out and not wrestling than a lot of people who were wrestling the whole time.”

Heeney has used her loss in last season’s state championship match for motivation. She’s primed to make her chase for the top of the podium.

“I didn’t take it too hard last year,” she said. “I knew, at the end of the day, I just had to get better. I wanted to work on my footwork, getting quicker feet so I could set up my shots more.

“I just need to go out there, wrestle my match and be confident.”