Brookfield’s Randall returns from injury

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Bryce Randall, right, of Brookfield goes against Riley Bartolic of Black River Friday during the Division III wrestling district at Garfield Heights.

GARFIELD HEIGHTS — The cracking sound was pretty gross, but the excruciating pain that immediately followed was much worse.

As Brookfield wrestler Bryce Randall attempted to finish a move in the Warriors’ season-opening tournament back in December, he heard his ribs break, and then he felt the muscles around them tear.

Then, in the back of his mind, he saw his senior year coming to an unceremonious end.

So did his coach.

“Honestly, we didn’t know if he was going to come back,” Brookfield coach Ben Solomon said. “Halfway through the season, you could tell it was really starting to get to him. I just told him, ‘You’ve got to think positive. You don’t know if you’re going to wake up tomorrow and start feeling better.’ “

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Caleb Bean, center, of Pymatuning Valley is declared the winner of his 285-pound match against Nathan Basinger of Dalton.

That day finally came, but it was nearly two months after the injury occurred. Randall had a lot of work to do to get back in shape and even have a chance at making any noise in the postseason. And yet here he is, a few wins away from reaching the state tournament.

The 182-pound Randall won his first match before suffering a setback in his second bout at the Division III Garfield Heights District tournament on Friday. He has to win his next three matches in the double-elimination tournament to qualify for state, but even giving himself a chance is an accomplishment after the injury caused him to miss two-thirds of his final season.

“For the first week or two, I really couldn’t sleep,” Randall said. “I had to sleep with a bunch of pillows under me. In about a month, sleep started to come back to normal, and I started moving a little more. Probably about a week or two after that, I started running again, and then I slowly progressed into practice.”

It was the first week of February when Randall was finally able to step on a wrestling mat again, but even then, there were hurdles to climb — mentally and physically.

The pain was still there, so while he had been medically cleared, the thought of re-injuring the ribs weighed on his mind. He admitted to being guarded about landing on his chest or even trying moves that could result in exposing his ribs. Those limitations could keep a wrestler from attempting even the most basic holds, so Randall had to overcome it.

“It was hard to tell,” said Randall when asked if the restrictions were more mental or physical. “Even now I’m scared. My last match (a loss to state-ranked Jake Loar in the district quarterfinal) I hurt it, and it scared me. Every day it cracks, and there’s pain, but I think it’s more mental.”

With his high school career on the line, there’s no holding back now, or is there?

Randall, also a standout football player, said a few local colleges, specifically Thiel, were looking at him to wrestle in college. So, he has to balance the positives of reaching the state tournament with the negatives of possibly hurting himself again.

Solomon understands. Part of him sees too much potential in a kid he’s coached since seventh grade to not to for it all. The rust has finally been knocked off after a long layoff, and Randall has a real shot to advance. Then again, his future is what’s most important.

Either way, Solomon is just glad Randall gave himself a chance after nearly losing his entire senior year.

“Low and behold, he wins sectionals and we’re at districts,” Solomon said. “Just him being here, I don’t have words for it. Heart and dedication, that’s what that comes down to.”

Wrestling continues at 10 a.m. today at Garfield Heights High School.

PV IN TOP 10: The Pymatuning Valley Lakers are again in the hunt to finish in the top five of the district tournament.

The Lakers, who finished fourth overall last year, are seventh overall. They have two wrestlers in the semifinals — Jake Edelman (113 pounds) and returning state champion Gaige Willis (220). PV advanced six wrestlers to the district (Edelman, Willis, William Campbell, Noah Campbell, Chad Brown and Caleb Bean) and all six are still alive. Both Campbells, Brown and Bean won one match and lost one.

OTHER LOCAL WRESTLERS: Liberty’s Tyler Wilson (126) and Mouad Elouaddi (170) each lost their first match and won their second. Zion Matlock (160) was eliminated. Five of Grand Valley’s six competitors are still alive. Trevor Meeker (113) is in a semifinal, while Clayton Takacs (160), Zach Hazlett (182) and Chase Cottrell (22) all won their first matches and lost their second. Mason Shreve (195) lost his first and won his second match. Mathew Sexton (138) was eliminated.

Jackson-Milton’s Jeremy Seka (120) and Anthony Pizzuto (145) each lost their first and won their second. Garfield’s Logan Kissell (145) and Ryan Finney (160) are each in the semifinal round. Daniel Demma (106) and Connor Hrbuik (152) both won one and lost one.