The euphoria of a second straight state wrestling championship has been tempered at Buchanan High School by a scary injury suffered by one of the Bears’ stars.
Junior Brett Villarreal is in stable condition and recovering from surgery at Valley Children’s Hospital, according to his mother.
The injury to Villarreal, the state’s No. 2-ranked 138-pounder, happened Friday at the CIF State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield. Against Rancho Buena Vista’s Bernie Truax in the quarterfinals, Truax lifted Villarreal off the mat, and with Villarreal attempting a counter move, Villarreal fell to the mat on his back near his shoulder blades, his mother, Chastity, said.
The match was stopped and Villarreal was placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital after reporting “pins and needles-like” sensations down his arms to his hands.
Never miss a local story.
“When I saw it happen, I just thought, ‘Oh, it’s just Brett,’ ” said Chastity Villarreal, who has seen her son suffer similar falls several times since he took up wrestling at age 6. “But when I heard him cry out, I knew something was wrong. He is usually pretty tough, but this time he was hurt pretty bad. And as a parent, it’s scary. These are the risks you take with the sport.”
After observation overnight, Villarreal was transported Saturday morning to Valley Children’s Hospital, where an MRI revealed a ruptured disk. Villarreal underwent nearly 10 hours of surgery Sunday to repair a rupture of the C5 and C6 vertebrae.
Of course it’s on his mind, thinking ‘What if I can’t wrestle again?’
Chastity Villarreal, mother of injured Buchanan High wrestler Brett Villarreal
Chastity Villarreal said doctors repaired the rupture and the surgery went well. An initial scan came back clean, and Villarreal is no longer experiencing the “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, though he still has torn ligaments in the area and will have to wear a brace for six to eight weeks.
Villarreal remains in the intensive care unit at Valley Children’s. Chastity Villarreal said she expects her son to be moved to a recovery room soon, but it hasn’t been determined when he will be allowed to return home.
It is not known yet if Villarreal will be able to wrestle again.
“Of course it’s on his mind, thinking ‘What if I can’t wrestle again?’ ” Chastity Villarreal said. “But our main focus is to leave the hospital, get into therapy and get healthy again. Our only concern right now is getting him healthy, nothing else.”
I think it’s done him a lot of good that everyone out there has best wishes for him.
Villarreal is a three-time state qualifier who placed fourth at 126 pounds last season to help Buchanan capture its first state team title since 2006.
Villarreal won his first three matches Friday, contributing 10 points before the injury. Truax reached the 138-pound final, losing a 16-6 major decision to Mission Oak’s Jaden Enriquez.
Chastity Villarreal said her son’s spirits have been lifted by an outpouring of support from the Buchanan community, family and friends near and far and the wrestling community in general.
“It’s so much support and prayers and love,” Chastity Villarreal said. “I think it’s done him a lot of good that everyone out there has best wishes for him.”