Monticello High School wrestling team just completed another successful season, placing second in the 1A team championship to Altamont as they grabbed three individual state championships and two seconds.
The three titlists, Cole Eldredge, Brian Robinson, and Austin Wilcox, became the 76th, 77th, and 78th state champions for MHS. Monticello has long been a wrestling hot bed, starting with the first state champion in 1959, Ralph Pellacio, followed by two more in 1960 by David Patrick and Jim Pearson.
Mike Bailey was the first two time state champion when he won in 1961 and 1962. Ozzie Trujillo was the first three time state champion and Aaron Butler the only Buckaroo four timer. In fact, MHS has had a state champion wrestler in 32 of the last 44 years, including 11 of the last 12 years. But this isn’t so much about state champions, it’s about character.
Exactly two weeks ago, five young men respectfully walked into my third grade classroom at Monticello Elementary School with state champion wrestling medals dangling from their necks. They were the above mentioned, freshly crowned Cole, Brian and Austin along with Shandon Bradford and Zach Musselman, who both also recently won state wrestling titles at the junior high level.
These young men came with an unpretentious but significant message for the students of MES, that if one is willing to work hard, one can be successful. They left a message with the students that working hard in school and sports will help you achieve in life.
One of the spokesmen for the group was Wilcox, who encouraged the students to be anxious to do the difficult things, because you’ll be successful at them if you work hard. He indicated that working at school was even more important than sports.
He didn’t quote Collin Powell, but I thought of a Collin Powell quote as he spoke, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work,” and another, “Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price,” which is something Vince Lombardi said.
I was impressed with these young men and their demeanor, no bravado or self aggrandizing, just a “work hard in school guys, and good things can happen” kind of attitude. Little did we know that one of these young men would be called upon to put those words into practice real soon.
Six days after those classroom visits, Wilcox, sans seatbelt, was riding in the back of a red 2002 Honda Accord that his buddy, Shane Christensen had just bought as his first car.
Christensen was driving at, what he will readily admit, was a too high rate of speed on a paved country road just a mile east of Monticello. Jake Giles was also in the car in the front seat.
The boys, all members of the Monticello baseball team were out fundraising for the team. As the car approached a curve in the road, it wasn’t able to negotiate the corner and flew into the air flipping and rolling perhaps three times, coming to rest right side up facing in the opposite direction.
Christensen and Giles, both wearing seat belts, were relatively unhurt, though badly shaken and bruised, but quickly realized to their horror that Wilcox was not in the car. Terrorized, they quickly found him lying on the side of the road, badly injured after being ejected and flying 50 feet in the air before landing on his head on the road.
Miraculously, state highway patrol trooper Sanford Randall, who lives near the scene, happened upon the accident within 30 seconds of the accident, along with two other nearby residents, Bryan Bowring and Jymi Adams and EMTs were on the scene quickly.
Wilcox was transported to the hospital and then life-flighted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction with severe injuries, a broken neck, severe head wounds, a concussion, lacerations on his head and road rash all over his body, all requiring plastic surgery, including 60-70 stitches in his head and intense hospital care.
He was in extreme pain and basically beat to a pulp. Amazingly, however, Wilcox, though in great pain, suffered no lasting injuries and doctors said he will make a full recovery, including his broken neck.
The doctors mentioned Wilcox’ excellent physical condition, a result of his hard work during the wrestling season, as one reason for his having survived.
Having had the kind of trauma the doctors said is fatal for 99 percent of people who suffer such, a miraculous four days after being life-flighted to the hospital, Wilcox gingerly left the hospital to begin his own recovery at home. It will take time and great effort, but Wilcox is determined to fully recover. He even said so in his church meeting Sunday that he remarkably attended; quoting Tim Tebow who said after his team had lost a game in college, “I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season.”
For their part, Christensen and Giles returned to school the morning after the accident and are recovering nicely too, physically and emotionally.
Shane, Jake and Austin are all grateful to be alive and determined to see as much good as can be come from this scary episode. I’d put a medal around the necks of all three as well as all those who worked so selflessly to help.