Injuries can't keep Staley, Breehl off mats

February 28, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

CUMBERLAND, Md. - Wrestling had always been a case of the survival of the fittest for Dean Staley and Jonathan Breehl.

For nearly 75 percent of their young lives, wrestling was simple. Get on the mat and overpower the guy standing in front of you. If you can stay off your back, usually you will win.

It was vastly different for the pair of North Hagerstown seniors on Saturday at the Maryland Class 2A-1A West Regional Tournament. The times and the opponents changed in dramatic fashion.


Breehl, the second seed at 152 pounds, and Staley, the fourth seed at 171, suffered injuries during their semifinal matches and were forced to take default losses. Suddenly, reality hit like a crossface hold.

You are a senior. You are now in the consolation semifinals. You need one win to earn a berth in the state tournament. You are injured. Do you wrestle or not?

"It's my senior year and I have never been taught to quit," said Breehl, who was hampered by a severely sprained ankle. "I have been wrestling for 12 years. I didn't want it to end like this."

Now the guys Staley and Breehl were facing were in the mirror. And instead of the fittest, both were barely fit. The decision they needed wasn't on the mat, it was from their internal boardroom. It was a personal election: Their bodies said 'no,' their heads said 'yes.' Their hearts had to cast the deciding vote, and it was all happening while their bodies were receiving medical treatment.

In the end, it was all heart.

"I've been walking around here for the last two hours, just thinking 'Wow,'" said North coach Greg Slick. "To see kids like that, you see what sports can do for them. Medical people would have said going on probably wasn't prudent, but this was two seniors who didn't want to end it all on a medical default. It was an example of how sports encourage you to take the next step."

For Breehl, he walked down the path of self-evaluation with a limp.

Breehl was facing Fort Hill's Zack Hoffman, the third seed. He was trying to escape from the bottom position by starting to stand when Hoffman's knee came down and forced Breehl's ankle to roll.

Breehl crumpled to the mat in a need for an injury timeout. After taking 80 of the 90 seconds allotted for medical attention, Breehl decided to continue.

In a big move, Breehl took Hoffman down to his back, but his ankle gave out with the torque of the maneuver. With no strength, only 10 remaining injury seconds and facing a scoring deficit, Slick talked his wrestler into "pulling the plug."

Breehl was at the trainer's table for the beginning of what became two hours of ice treatment. Suddenly, he had to move over to share the table with Staley.

Staley was hooked up with Southern Garrett's Scott Wildesen, the defending state champion and top seed at 171. Staley recorded a takedown, but he landed with all the weight on his shoulder. He took it as long as he could go, but had no strength in the arm and was forced to also default.

The only thing left for Breehl and Staley to wrestle was their emotions. They were forced to face a situation where some might have given up and others would have worried about personal safety.

"No one talked to them or talked them out of it," Slick said. "Dean's brothers and uncles asked me if I was going to let him go or not. Then, I talked to Jonathan and he said 'I'm going to wrestle. I'm not going out like this.' Then Staley followed and he said he was going to go, too."

Breehl watched his division carefully while getting treatment. When he saw his opponent in the semifinals, he knew he had to give it a try.

"I was thinking about it the whole time I was sitting on the table. It was all heart," Breehl said. "I saw I was going to be facing (Walkersville's) Mike Smith and he had beaten me earlier this season. I had to go out there and beat him."

Breehl gutted out a 9-7 win over Smith, not only for a measure of revenge, but for guaranteed seeding in this week's state tournament at the University of Maryland.

Staley also weighed his chances before going in to take his final shot. He saw his opponent was Smithsburg's Jeremy Harbaugh, but he also drew on some pride and honor to give it a try.

"I don't know. I was thinking some to the safety side," Staley said. "My next opponent was a guy I beat and I needed to do it again to get to states. It's my senior year and my highest goal was to qualify for states. I couldn't do it last year because I got injured.

"This is my 13th year of competing and wrestling is a family legacy. My brothers all wrestled and my dad also wrestled at North. I'm the last one of the family coming through and I wanted to leave on a good note."

Staley followed Breehl's lead and scored a 9-4 win to get to the consolation final and the automatic berth for states.

Both wrestlers declined to wrestle in the third-place match and defaulted to prevent any further damage to their injuries. The hopes are that both will get time to heal and medical permission to go to states.

"I'll be there," Breehl said.

Nineteen area wrestlers finished in the top four for the right to head to states. Middletown leads the way with four while Smithsburg, Williamsport and North will send three each.

Smithsburg's Jeff Sprecher (160), Brunswick's Terry Bartholomew (119), Walkersville's Kyle Crapster (171) and Middletown's Tyler Stube (103) and Ryan Tice (125) finished second in the tournament, while Williamsport's Mike McGill (145) and Middletown's Andrew Presnell (275) go in as champions.

All are deserving of their spots in the tournament, but likely none showed the conviction that Breehl and Staley mustered.

"There might not have been a lot of common sense (in their decisions), but it shows a lot of the courage and determination everyone hopes to see in young people," Slick said. "To see them make that step makes me so proud."

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