After the season, Oak Harbor’s Nick Bergman will have had as many surgeries — 12 — as the number of matches he’s currently wrestled.
Bergman (8-4), who was in the hospital on IV antibiotics for 11 days around Jan. 1 because of pneumonia, sinusitis and migraines, earned a Division II sectional wrestling crown at 120 pounds Saturday.
Clyde’s Anthony Beier (132), Beau Minnick (145), Blake Miller (152), Marshall Messer (195) and Collin Mange (heavyweight) were also champs in a separate sectional. Beier topped Tre’ Wheeler (Bath) 7-5, Minnick beat Derek Kuhlman (Shawnee) 10-3 and Mange pinned John Seibert (Defiance) in 3 minutes, 03 seconds in the finals.
Miller took control in each of his matches and earned an 11-3 major decision over Robbie Bowers (Defiance) in the finals.
“I felt good,” he said. “It goes to show what hard work when nobody’s watching can do for you.”
Messer beat John Workman (Perkins) 10-6 in the finals.
“It was big to get the win against Workman,” Messer said. “He’s always tough and can catch me in a bad position at any point. It was a hard-fought win. I’m ready for districts to prove I’m just as good as any 195-pounder in the state.”
Doctors told Bergman they’d only seen one other case similar to his and the fluid and bacteria in the front lobe led to blindness. Bergman’s case was diagnosed earlier and treated differently.
Bergman was a state alternate as a freshman despite a shoulder that popped out of socket four or five times a match before surgery for a torn labrum. As a sophomore last season, Bergman shredded the labrum in his other shoulder after eight matches, required surgery and recovery lingered into the start of this season.
Bergman, 18, has had surgeries for a torn meniscus, on his thumb and several on his back. He also had an appendectomy for good measure.
At no point did Bergman think about retiring his high tops. In fact, his tunnel vision is so intense he actually feels fortunate because we aren’t guaranteed anything.
“God is watching over me, helping me through this and helping me work hard,” he said. “You never know when it will be the last time you’ll be able to lace up your shoes and go out there. I feel fortunate for every match.
“People get hurt. God has a plan. If I’m supposed to get hurt … everybody falls down. You have to get back up and get on the mat.”
Friends and peers and classmates have all suggested to Bergman that his body might be telling him wrestling’s not for him.
“They tell me not to,” he said. “‘You’ve had 11 surgeries.’ I love being on the mat and being with my friends. It’s not just a sport, it’s my life to me. It’s a passion. People always tell me to give it up and it motivates me to be better and prove them wrong.
“I’ll wrestle whether people think I should or not and do it to the best of my ability.”
Bergman beat Rosendo Beltran (Toledo Central Catholic) 4-2 in the finals. He started the tourney with a tech fall.
“I knew I had to keep him off my legs,” he said of Beltran. “I knew I could ride him out. The coaches have taught us to stay on our toes.”
The Rockets’ Jeremy Balboa (138) pinned Josh Mossing (Central Catholic) in 3:16 for a championship. He topped Gene Porter in the semifinals after losing to Porter earlier in the season.
“He’s picked it up in practice,” said George Bergman, Nick’s father and long-time coach of a program consistently in the upper-tier. “In the finals, he trailed and got a defensive pin. When you hustle and work hard, sometimes you’re rewarded.”
Landon Kiser (120), Austin Baker (138) and Garit Witt (182) also advanced for Clyde.
Justin Drennen (113), Collin Adkins (126), Chris Harris (138), Gabe Smythe (152), Logan Vannest (170) and Grant Moyer (heavyweight) moved on for Bellevue.
Wrestlers in strong programs help each other succeed. Bergman’s partners include district qualifiers Bruce Hrynciw (106), Dylan Mansor (113), Balboa, Rhett Petersen (132) and Jake Huston (126).
Ben Petersen (145) and Brody Hennig (152) also moved on for the Rockets.
“Everybody wants to be good but you need great partners and coaches in the room,” Bergman said. “They want more out of me and they all have the same goals you do. We’re a big family.”
A little nose surgery after the season because of the sinusitis certainly won’t stop Bergman from trying to sniff out success.
“I feel great,” he said. “It took me a while to get in shape after the hospital but the coaches do a great job getting us in shape.
“I’ve never given up on anything in my life and I don’t plan to now.”