Sartell, Minn. wrestler paralyzed in freak accident during 'fireman's carry' move

A Sartell, Minnesota wrestler was paralyzed after a match, leaving him wondering if he'll ever walk again. Well, he's walking. His wrestling days, however, are over.

'I was in a dark box'

"I remember getting out on the mat and wrestling for a little bit. And then when I hit my head it kinda went bright really quick," Nathan O'Brien recalled. "It almost felt like I was in a dark box."

The moment O'Brien's life change came during a dual on Jan 22. A perfectly legal routine move from his Sauk Rapids opponent called a "fireman's carry." In the middle, his body went completely limp.

"I noticed his legs weren't moving. The other wrestler was blocking my view of his head, and so I couldn't see his face or upper body, but I saw his feet and he wasn't moving and I knew right away that something was wrong," his father Mark O'Brien said.

'Like a concussion on my spine'

O'Brien was temporarily paralyzed and spent five days in the hospital.

"Five hours later in the hospital I woke up and I couldn't really move my arms or my legs. I could move my fingers and toes a little bit," O'Brien said. "They said it's like a concussion on my spine. As the days went on I got more and more mobility and strength back."

Now, he's watching from the sidelines after doctors told him his wrestling days are done because should he re-injure himself, he could be paralyzed permanently. No doubt, that order is difficult for the freshman from a wrestling family. His two older brothers are on the same team and their dad wrestle throughout college.

A freak accident

Everyone agrees the fireman's carry wasn't performed wrong, and this freak accident could have happened to anyone.

"It's not like the other wrestler was picking him up and slamming him down. It's more of a roll, so normally, you don't see an injury from that move, but it must have been the way he hit. It was sort of the perfect storm for an injury," Mark O'Brien said.

The O'Briens say support and plenty of suppers from the Sartell wrestling community are getting them through this. The family doesn't want anyone to turn away from wrestling because of this, but just want other student athletes to remember what they've learned.

"Life is short. No matter how much you practice for something, accidents happen. Don't rely on your athletics to take you through life because they can be taken away in a split second," O'Brien said.

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