BROOKFIELD - As Zach Jamieson was raised onto an ambulance after injuring his neck and suffering a concussion from an illegal slam at the Division II District Wrestling tournament this past Saturday, his thoughts were understandably scattered.
His head started to clear a bit as EMTs began explaining the situation to him. Jamieson, a 170-pound senior for Brookfield, and his opponent, Travis Pickering of Mapleton, were wrestling in a key match at the tournament - the winner advanced to the state tournament, the loser did not - when the two each attacked at the same time. Pickering went for a takedown, and as he attempted to finish it, he briefly lifted Jamieson into the air and dropped him on his head.
The slam left Jamieson writhing in pain, and medical personnel quickly diagnosed him with a concussion and what they feared was a broken neck. He was taken off on a gurney, and on the way to the hospital, he was told that because the slam was illegal and Jamieson was unable to finish, he won the match and advanced to the state tournament. But, he also had a concussion and an injured neck, which jeopardized his dream of wrestling at the state tournament.
"The first thing I said was, 'Don't tell our trainer,' " said Jamieson, who missed time as a sophomore when he suffered a concussion. "I ended up passing all the symptom tests (as a sophomore), and then I had to take an impact test, and I failed that. And I kind of went crazy. I felt fine. I wanted to wrestle."
There was no need to flip out this time.
Jamieson was cleared by Brookfield's high school trainer on Monday, and as long as everything goes well at an appointment today with his family doctor, he can participate in the State Wrestling Tournament, which starts Thursday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Injuries have - unfortunately - taken up much of Jamieson's senior season. He broke his wrist in late January and missed nearly a month of competition. He admits it's amazing he was able to wrestle in the postseason at all.
"(The doctor) told me in the beginning, 'You're going to be in a cast for six, maybe eight weeks,' " said Jamieson, who ended up spending two weeks in a cast. "He said it healed completely, which is kind of a miracle. It was depressing when it happened because when he said six to eight weeks, I said, 'Oh, my season's done.' But he saw how much it destroyed me, and he really helped me get back quick."
His return has been equally quick. He took second at the sectional tournament, his first taste of competition since the injury occurred on Jan. 18. He then won his first match at the district tournament, and although he lost his second, we won two straight to set up the bout with Pickering. Brookfield coach Brad Harnett said Jamieson's technique hasn't suffered, but his conditioning and range of motion in the wrist has been a concern.
That doesn't change his expectations for Jamieson.
"I think he has a good chance at placing," said Harnett, a Brookfield alumnus who placed seventh in the state tournament in 2005. "He's a smart wrestler. He might be able to pull something out. He's been around the block. He's already come a long way from last year."
Last year wasn't easy for Jamieson, who hit a growth spurt and jumped up six weight classes (from 120 to 160). He struggled with stronger wrestlers and with the style change from lightweight to upperweight. So he spent the offseason lifting - and not just weights.
"I did a lot of roofing with my dad in the summer," Jamieson said. "We would do these little competitions at work, me and my buddies, to see who could carry the most bundles of shingles up the ladder. The one day I carried three bundles up the ladder, which is 270 pounds, on my shoulders.
"(Working there) helped, I think. That's hard work, and putting in 40, 50 hours a week doing that, I honestly think that helped make me a lot stronger."
The difference in strength was obvious. Jamieson was 18-1 before he broke his wrist, with his only loss coming in the finals at the Howland Invitational - when the injury occurred. Harnett said the biggest improvement came in Jamieson's offense. He was no longer hesitant to attack because his strength was equal or better than his opponent.
"He's quicker with his shooting and his neutral game," Harnett said. "He's more comfortable making decisions. Last year, if he got underneath a guy, it was hard for him to get out. Now, he's better with his balance and his core. He doesn't look like much, but everyone always comes up to me and says that kid is one of the strongest I've ever wrestled."
He's going to need all his attributes this week, if he is in fact cleared by his doctor. Jamieson, now 24-3, would wrestle Jake Datz (51-5), who is ranked as high as fourth in the state in some publications, in the first round. The matchup isn't fazing Jamieson. He's been through a lot this year, and some ranking isn't going to affect his mindset as he approaches a goal he's worked for since he first started wrestling.
"I love this sport, and I don't like sitting out," he said. "I hate going to tournaments and watching. There was pretty much nothing that was going to stop me (from wrestling this weekend).
"I just want to get on the podium. That's the ultimate goal now. At the beginning of the season, my goal was to get to state. Now that I'm there, I want to get on the podium."