'My heart's in it'
Injuries have worn on Matt Michaelson. Three concussions in two years - two of them separated by only three weeks during his freshman season at the University of Mary - forced him to rethink his athletic career. "When they happen pretty close, th...
Injuries have worn on Matt Michaelson.
Three concussions in two years - two of them separated by only three weeks during his freshman season at the University of Mary - forced him to rethink his athletic career.
"When they happen pretty close, then you've got something to worry about," Michaelson said.
After U-Mary doctors wouldn't clear Michaelson to wrestle, the Dickinson High graduate looked home to Dickinson State - the school he'd nearly decided to wrestle for straight out of high school - for an answer.
Blue Hawks coach Thadd O'Donnell responded with open arms.
"We said the door's always open," O'Donnell said. "My bottom line is I want the kids that want to be here. Those are the guys who want to excel. Those are the guys who will lay it on the line in crunch time."
Michaelson has become one of those guys for the second-ranked Blue Hawks.
His first year at DSU, the 184-pounder qualified for the national tournament. Then last year, after suffering an injury to his right knee's patellar tendon, Michaelson decided it was time to redshirt a season and get his head back into the sport.
"I just needed a break," Michaelson said. "I knew I was coming back. I always knew that."
O'Donnell made sure Michaelson wouldn't regret the decision.
"I sat down with him and told him you've got to do it for the right reasons," he said.
Without Michaelson, the Blue Hawks still prospered.
They finished a school-best fourth at the NAIA National Tournament. Looking back, Michaelson has mixed thoughts on the decision to sit out.
"The things I'll always regret is not being a part of the team that placed fourth at nationals," Michaelson said. "On the other hand, I'm glad I took the year off, because now my heart's in it 100 percent."
When Michaelson began preseason workouts with the Blue Hawks prior to this season, it relieved his teammates.
"Some of us were kind of bummed out. We thought he would be done," DSU senior heavyweight Clay Rodgers said. "He kind of he-hummed about it."
Rodgers said he was relieved when Michaelson hit the mat during the Todd Glaser Benefit duals and clinic in Glasgow, Mont., last October.
"He didn't even look like he took time off," Rodgers said.
Since then, the junior has been a force.
He's been ranked in the NAIA's top five at 184 pounds throughout the season - he's currently third - and will go into Saturday's North Region Tournament with the second seed, even though he has been ranked first in the region most of the season.
Does that bother Michaelson?
"To me, ratings don't mean anything," Michaelson said. "I know I'm going to have some tough matches this weekend."
Because DSU hosts the regionals, Michaelson believes he will reap the benefits.
"I hate traveling," he said with a laugh. "I think we all wrestle a little better when it's at home for some reason."