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Nationals end with neck injury

Pound for pound, West Linn's Prescott Garner might be one of the toughest guys around.

A lot of people already knew that. But for those who needed more evidence, the proof came last week at the national freestyle wrestling championships at Fargo, N.D. Garner was hoping to place in the top eight at that competition, but he never got a chance to appear on the medal stand.

After wrestling in three matches, two of which he won, Garner was forced to withdraw from the competition because of severe pain in his neck and shoulders. It was later determined that Garner had broken off the spinous portion of his C7 vertebrae at the base of his neck.

Apparently the injury occurred the day before the competition began, when Garner was practicing moves with a fellow wrestler. It's believed that the injury happened when the other wrestler was executing a 'Russian roll' move in which Garner had his head and neck twisted to one side as he was being flipped over.

Even though he felt a little bit of pain at the time of the injury, it wasn't enough to keep Garner from wrestling the next day. In fact, the 119-pounder handled his first opponent, scoring technical falls in two of the three rounds.

Even though his neck hurt even more after that match, Garner continued on and beat his next opponent with a late first-round pin. Then in his third match, his father Steve noticed that the younger Garner wasn't using any of the moves he normally uses in a match.

'He said he was in too much pain,' the father said.

After a quick examination by the trainer at the event, it was determined that Garner needed to see a doctor. X-rays taken at a nearby hospital clearly showed that the spinous, the back part of the vertebrae, had broken off.

'I was pretty scared when I knew I had to go to the hospital,' Prescott Garner said. 'I was afraid it possibly could have put me out for life.'

Well, Garner's worst fears weren't realized, but it obviously marked the end of his national tournament. For a while even his upcoming high school season (when he will be a senior) could have been in jeopardy.

Fortunately, after seeing a doctor in Portland on Tuesday, it was determined that Garner can start wrestling again in six weeks. Surgery, which at one point seemed like a real possibility, will not be needed, the grappler said. In fact, he won't even have to wear a neck brace during his rehab period.

'It was a good way for (the ordeal) to end,' Garner said.

'I was bummed at first,' he said after being forced to withdraw from nationals.

Now, the feeling is more like relief, he said.

Unfortunately, the injury handed the younger Garner another setback when he realized he couldn't lead a Boy Scout troop on a rugged 80-mile excursion through the mountains of northern New Mexico.

'That was the worst part,' Prescott said after losing out on a trip that had been planned for months.

'I think he was more upset about that,' the father said. 'That was going to be 12 days of pure fun.'

Now that he apparently won't miss any of the high school season, Prescott can turn his attention back to his main goal, which is to win a state wrestling championship. He came close to that goal each of the last two years but each time he lost to a national-caliber wrestler late in the tournament. This time, Garner is determined that nothing will stop him.

'Some way or another, I'm going to win state,' he said.

Who would want to argue with him?