Ethen Doty has had his share of twists and turns the last few weeks, and most of it hasn’t been all that pleasant.
He’s hoping everything will turn out just fine in the end, however.
An Eastland High School junior who competes for the West Carroll wrestling co-op, Doty has stamped himself as one of the top small-school wrestlers in the state. He placed fifth and posted a 38-8 record as a 120-pound freshman at the IHSA state tournament in 2018, then went 45-0 and won state as a 126-pound sophomore last winter.
Doty appeared to be on a path to greatness once again this season until fate dealt him a cruel blow. At the Bob Lueders Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 18 in Clinton, Iowa, Doty was leading a 132-pound semifinal bout against Sterling’s Drew Kested 4-0 with about 30 seconds to go.
Suddenly, the action came to a screeching halt, and it was Doty on the receiving end of a nasty injury.
“My [right] knee got caught underneath him and dislocated,” Doty said. “As it came back, it messed up my meniscus. It’s torn in two spots. … I could not move my knee at all. My leg was stiff. It was already swelling up a lot.”
After a 3-day period to let the swelling go down a bit, Doty went to Dixon Physical Therapy. The owner there, Dr. Michael Tunink, has a son, Kyle, who is a senior at Newman, and like Doty, a top-notch wrestler. Together, Dr. Tunink and Doty explored their options.
One surgeon who looked at the knee recommended surgery as soon as possible, with no more wrestling this season.
Another surgeon said the knee would have to be operated on eventually, but with some effective physical therapy and a tolerance for some pain, the surgery could wait until after the season. That was music to Doty’s ears.
“I thought I was done,” Doty said. “I could not move my leg for 3 days, but then I started coming [to Dixon Physical Therapy], and now I feel fine.”
Doty was able to resume practice on Wednesday, Feb. 5. He got in 2 days of work in preparation for the Class 1A Polo Regional that was held last Friday and Saturday.
After a first-round bye, Doty (34-1) needed a mere 42 seconds to pin Stillman Valley’s Randy Manos in the semifinals, then 55 seconds to handle Dakota’s Tyler Simmer in the finals.
“I went out there and just finished it,” Doty said. “I didn’t really feel like getting any more points than what I needed to. I didn’t want to put my knee in more injury danger than what it is.”
West Carroll coach Jeff McIntyre noted there was virtually no drop-off from Doty, pre-injury to post-injury, at the regional.
“He looked like 'The Terminator,'” McIntyre said. “He was on the mat hardly a minute and a half, and it looked like he was on a mission. He wasn’t going to be out there any longer than he had to be. Maybe he was nervous something could happen, so he made sure he got things taken care of in short order.”
Doty has continued the physical therapy on his knee this week. He wore a brace on the knee for a time after the injury, but now wears nothing more than a kneepad. There is no pain medication ingested.
He will see an uptick in competition today and Saturday at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional, which is annually the toughest small-school sectional in the state.
After that, he hopes to defend his state title at State Farm Center in Champaign on Feb. 20-22.
“That’s always been the goal,” he said, “and nothing about that has changed.”
High school: Eastland
Wrestling team: West Carroll co-op
FYI: Owns a 117-9 career record, including 34-1 this season. ... Went 45-0 & won the 126-pound 1A state title last year. … Suffered knee injury on Jan. 18 in Clinton, Iowa, but returned to competition at the Class 1A Polo Regional last Friday & Saturday. … Won the 132-pound title at Polo.