By Jeremy McDonald
PORTLAND, Ore.– When James Van Agtmael took off his Cascade Cougar pullover before his 182-pound State Tournament first round match, the senior was sporting two separate wraps on his arm. One patch on his lower part of his bicep and tricep right above the elbow, and another patch right below the elbow on his upper forearm of his right arm.
Fighting through the injury involving his right elbow region has taken a lot of work and effort as he took to the mat for his first match against Baker/Powder Valley’s Eithen Hatfield.
“It’s taken a lot, from my coaches being able to taking the time to help me through this and getting a lot of support from family to get through this,” said Van Agtmael. “It’s been a long season, but it’s been worth it.”
Last summer, while trying to qualify for Nationals at Pocatello, Idaho, Van Agtmael was wrestling in a match during the tournament in which he had his elbow hyperextended to the point there was a ‘pop’.
That pop was the tearing of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. The UCL is the ligament along the pinkie finger end of the elbow joint and it is also known as the ‘Tommy John” ligament after the namesake had his repaired following a pitching in the 1970s with the LA Dodgers.
Knowing the diagnosis and the recovery period would involve him missing his senior season of wrestling, the senior decide to forgo the operation and see what he can do on it between the summer and the end of wrestling season.
“It’s my last year of wrestling and if I do good this year then I get a good chance at going to a community college,” said Van Agtmael on the decision on forgoing the surgery until after wrestling season.
Van Agtmael, who was a lineman for the Cougar football team, was on the sidelines sporting a bulky metal arm-brace trying to keep the elbow joint stable in trying to get it healthy enough without surgery and trying to get back to playing shape in time to hit the mats one last time.
“It was not fun, it was terrible. I like being on the field, I don’t like sitting on the sidelines or missing practice, it’s not what I like to do,” said Van Agtmael.
When wrestling season did begin, he had to re-learn everything from the bottom-up with changing up his techinque, his style, etc as he eventually traded the brace for the athletic wrap for the season.
“I had pretty much learn from the ground-up on how to wrestle again after it because I was right-handed. So it was a long-road doing that,” said the quiet and humble Van Agtmael.
The changing of the style and switching it up worked. As the season progressed and Van Agtmael worked his way to the 182-pound district title bout against North Marion’s Matt Carrillo at Sweet Home last weekend.
He battled throughout the match, but Carrillo pulled out the win by a 10-6 decision for the District Title, Van Agtmael walked away District Runner-Up with a torn UCL and all.
Despite the loss, Van Agtmael drew the seventh-seed in the State bracket at 182 as he finished fifth at State as a junior last season and was hoping to duplicate that success during his last hurrah even though Van Agtmael prefers the bigger tournaments over the one at Veterans Coliseum.
“It’s amazing I love it here, but I prefer the bigger tournaments. I like more people,” smiled Van Agtmael.
But hey, competitors know what they want right? haha
With his surgery scheduled Monday, Van Agtmael started off the tournament win a quick 20 second pin of Hatfield to move on to the second-round of the tournament against La Grande’s Elijah Livingston who was the second seed.
Against Livingston, Van Agtmael made it to the third round versus the senior before being pinned at the 5:52 mark, dropping Van Agtmael to the second round of the consolation bracket against Marshfield’s Aiden Adams.
It was that match that Van Agtmael’s incredible run, incredible season came to an end when Adams defeated the senior by decision 8-6.
One thing is for certain that Van Agtmael showed us is that it’s not how big the dog is, but the fight that the dog has endure; overcoming something tough in order to do something that you love, that you want to do and that nothing can hold you back if you put your mind to it.
And as Van Agtmael prepares for his surgery Monday, he’s just happy to get it done and over with.
“I get to get on with my life again,” smiled Van Agtmael about finally getting it over with about the surgery.