Pay the price? Thaddeus Nartey knows all about that. He runs on the track at Normal Community High School or on trails or in what he called the school's "cardio room."

He comes in early to school for extra conditioning or workouts or weightlifting. At practice, he makes the most of every minute, pushing himself because in his life, time is precious.

The clock seems to run faster for Nartey, a senior who last weekend won his second straight Class 3A regional wrestling championship. It runs because he always has someplace to be. 

Why?

He also pays the bills. Not all of them, but whatever ones he can to help his mother, Erica Tisdale.

It's just the two of them right now, so in addition to school and wrestling, Nartey works 20 to 25 hours a week at a local Dairy Queen.

In the summer and fall, it was more like 30. He also bales hay in the summer and earns money assisting with Brazilian Ju Jitsu tournaments here and elsewhere in the Midwest.

"I help with (paying) the utilities," Nartey said. "Sometimes the light bill, sometimes the water bill, and then sometimes she (his mother) lets me spend whatever I have for like food and stuff.

"It feels good to help my mom out. If she's struggling, I can help her out."

That is championship caliber stuff, regardless what happens on the mat. Yet, Nartey is good there as well, upping his record to 34-6 at 170 pounds with Saturday's East Moline Regional title.

His morning workouts often are a byproduct of having to leave early from an afternoon practice to get to work. Paying the price and paying the bills divides his time many days, and that's OK.

He will tell you that.

His brother, Fred, 19, had a job as a senior to help out at home. Now it's Thaddeus' turn.

"To him it's not a burden," NCHS wrestling coach Trevor Kaufman said. "It's what is expected of him in his house and his family ... to work and help with the family and provide."

Wrestling is a difficult sport under any circumstances. It is demanding physically and mentally, requiring discipline on the mat, in conditioning, in the weight room and at the dinner table.

Imagine working at Dairy Queen and having to pass on those hot fudge sundaes and cookie dough Blizzards you're serving up.

Nartey stays true to his sport.

One reason is he loves it. A friend introduced him to it years ago and he fell head over heels.

Another is what it could mean financially next year and beyond.

"Now it's like I'm doing it because of college," Nartey said. "It will help me with my expenses and help my mom. It will help us with paying for college."

One possible landing spot is Lincoln College, which has a wrestling history that includes 17 junior college national champions and many other All-Americans.

For now, Nartey's focus is on the Alton Sectional.

A year ago, he fell one match shy of qualifying for the state tournament. He wrestled at 160 then, but moved up to 170 this year.

His season has been remarkable in light of all he does away from the mat. Getting to state would be rewarding, redemptive.

"I still remember losing that match last year and coming out in the hallway and crying a little bit," Nartey said. "It was kind of embarrassing. I was just very frustrated. I want to make it to state. It's my last year wrestling for this school."

His coach likes his chances.

"He understands what it takes," Kaufman said. "I think the sky's the limit. I hope he gets the job done and goes to state."

Me too.

At a time so many athletes take so much for granted, be glad there is still a place in sports for Thaddeus Nartey.

He pays the price and pays the bills.

That is some bottom line.

Follow Randy Kindred on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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