The Milwaukie High grad recovers from a broken neck to place fourth at the Pac-10 wrestling championships as a red-shirt freshman
CORVALLIS - Milwaukie High graduate Tim Patrick continues to turn more than a few heads as he pursues his passion.
Patrick, a red-shirt freshman competing for Oregon State University's wrestling team, was told in April of 2007, that it was unlikely he would ever wrestle again. He had suffered what doctors thought was a career-ending neck injury while competing at the FILA National Freestyle Wrestling Championships.
'My neurosurgeon told me, 'You're going to need surgery, whether you wrestle or not,'' Patrick recalls. 'He consulted with 10 other doctors and they were in 80 percent agreement that I'd never wrestle again.'
The surgeons replaced crushed cartilage between two vertebrae with a femur bone from a cadaver.
But the healing process was a slow one, and there were days that Patrick doubted that he would be able to return to the sport he loved.
For a couple of months following surgery, Patrick recalls, doctors 'wouldn't let me do anything where I would sweat.'
'At the beginning, after the surgery, when I felt my body and realized the seriousness of the injury, there were definitely times when I had doubts that I'd be able to return,' Patrick said.
'I don't think I'd have been able to do it without the support of my roommates Keegan [Davis] and Brandon [Perkins], my family, and my coaches at Milwaukie High School and at OSU. They were always there for me, and gradually the periods of doubts became fewer and fewer, until they disappeared.'
Patrick began physical therapy over the summer. Through hard work and dedication to tedious strengthening and stretching exercises, his condition improved. And gradually Patrick's doctors changed their opinion as to his prospects for returning to wrestling.
By early December, Patrick was cleared by his doctors to drill with the OSU wrestling team. By mid-December, he was wrestling unattached, in open tournaments.
By mid-February, Patrick had compiled an 11-2 record in open competition.
And in late February, he got a surprise call up to compete for OSU at the Pac 10 Championships, when teammate Dan Brascetta, who had wrestled varsity for OSU at 157 all season, was unable to compete because of an ankle injury. Ironically Brascetta was Patrick's opponent when Patrick injured his neck during the 2007 national freestyle tournament.
After dropping his Pac 10 opener to fifth-seeded Devan Velasquez of Cal State Fullerton, Patrick bounced back to win three straight matches, earning fourth place in his weight division.
This isn't the first time that Patrick has displayed courage above and beyond the ordinary.
His senior year at Milwaukie, just prior to the Three Rivers League district meet, Patrick underwent surgery for a ruptured testicle, an injury that doctors initially believed would be career-ending.
The doctors said, following the surgery that he couldn't do any more damage, and if he could stand the pain, he could wrestle at district. Patrick went on to win a district title and place second at state, despite being out of condition. He had been flat on his back the week preceding the district tournament.
'The young man just continues to amaze me with his courage,' said Milwaukie coach Dan Williamson.
'Getting back to where he can compete after a devastating injury like Tim had is pretty amazing,' said Beavers head coach Jim Zalesky. 'But it doesn't surprise me [that Tim has been able to come back]. He's a leader in the wrestling room. He sets a great example for the freshmen with his work ethic. They see how hard he works and what it's done for Tim.'
Patrick says that he has overcome an initial fear of re-injuring his neck, and he says that he gained a lot of confidence after placing fourth at the Pac 10 Championships.
'I had a terrible match against Velasquez,' he said. 'I don't think he's that good of a wrestler, but I was a little nervous, it being my first varsity match. My confidence was off a ton.'
After the loss, Patrick bounced back to win by second-round fall over sixth-seeded Alex Pavlenko of Arizona State, by third-round fall over seventh-seeded Steven Dailey of Portland State, and by 10-7 decision over fourth-seeded Kyle Bounds of Oregon.
Patrick was fighting off a fall for most of the first round in his match with Bounds, as he rallied from a 7-1 first-round deficit.
Patrick lost by decision to Stanford senior Josh Zupancic in the third-place final. Zupancic was the seeded second at 157.
'Zupancic is a talented kid,' said Patrick. 'He wrestled hard. Technically he's pretty sound. I only wish he hadn't beaten me, because I'm not going to get another shot at him.'
Success at the collegiate level is nothing knew for Patrick. Before injuring himself at last year's FILA nationals, he won the FILA national Greco Roman title in the 20-and-under division, and he placed fourth in freestyle, after forfeiting because of his neck injury.
He was a four-time state qualifier at Milwaukie High School, where he compiled a career record of 135-18 in collegiate wrestling.
And Patrick has only just begun to realize his goals.
'My goals haven't changed [since the neck injury], except they've gotten a little higher….,' he said. 'Short-term, a Pac 10 championship and national championships in Greco and freestyle.
'Long-term, a NCAA title, eventually Olympic champion - and universe champion in extraterrestrial life.'
And when he's finished wrestling, Patrick plans to return to Milwaukie where he hopes to teach elementary school and coach high school wrestling.
Based on what he's done so far, it appears that the sky's the limit for this young man.