TUMWATER - In an instant, Colton Weiks went from cruising to being a casualty.
It was at Tumwater’s Pat Alexander Invitational wrestling tournament Dec. 18 that Weiks, a Thunderbirds senior, thought he had wrestled for the last time.
There he was on the mat, writhing in pain with his right arm jutting out at an awkward angle. His elbow was dislocated. Paramedics arrived within moments and later had Weiks transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital by ambulance.
“I never thought I’d come back,” Weiks said. “The pain was terrible.”
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But the improbable happened. Less than two months after the injury, he’s one of nine Thunderbirds who will wrestle at Mat Classic XXIII, which starts today and concludes Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
At 130 pounds, Weiks is making his second appearance at state. He placed seventh as a junior last year at 125.
Weiks, who was ranked in the top 10 in the state in his weight class at the time of the injury, was in command of his 135-pound quarterfinal match at the Alexander Invitational. He had a 6-1 lead over North Thurston’s Derrick McDannald in the first round, and went for an ankle-pick takedown. A split-second later, the scene was a gruesome reminder of how dangerous the sport can be.
“It was pretty bad,” Weiks said.
It has been a long road to recovery for Weiks. At first, there was doubt he could recuperate in time to finish the season. Routine tasks – including taking a shower – proved to be painful, even with nearly an entire roll of athletic tape supporting the elbow.
The pain eventually subsided and the range of motion began to return. But he’s still unable to fully extend his arm.
For weeks, he ran at every team practice and kept scores during every meet – all the while doing rehabilitation three to four days a week.
Then, he got the news he was hoping to hear.
On Jan. 31 – seven weeks after the injury – doctors cleared him to wrestle again, saying he had made tremendous progress. The date of his return was only four days before the two-day subregional tournament in Centralia. At the subregional, Weiks placed third to qualify for the Region II meet at Tumwater last weekend.
Once there, he earned another third-place finish, pinning Tyee’s Abraham Torres in 1 minute, 38 seconds in the third-place match – his third pin at the regional.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualified for state, with the fifth-place finisher being an alternate.
Tumwater coach Tony Prentice can relate to what Weiks went through. Prentice suffered the same injury during his senior season at Tumwater during a subregional match. The injury also cost him his final season of high school baseball.
“It’s a pretty traumatic injury,” Prentice said. “It ends most people’s career. (Colton) worked his butt off through rehab and running, and he never missed a day with us. He did everything he could possibly do to get himself ready.”
Weiks has had five pins in the past two postseason meets, and today will mark his second straight appearance at state.
Now that he’s able to close out his prep career at Mat Classic, his goals are loftier – to place third or higher.
“That means I have to work extra hard because I’m behind everyone else,” Weiks said. “It’s just another thing to challenge me. It’s something I want.”