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Prep Wrestling: The fall and the rise of Dylan Jergenson

GLENWOOD -- Taking the mat on Dec. 21 for a home quad meet, Minnewaska's Dylan Jergenson was one of the more dominant figures on the mat. The seventh-ranked 220-pounder in Class A, the Lakers junior secured a pair of first-period pins, bumping hi...

Minnewaska's Dylan Jergenson (middle) is encouraged by teammates prior to a match on Dec. 21 at Minnewaska High School. This season, Jergenson is 17-2 and ranked seventh at 220 pounds in Class A. Joe Brown / Tribune
Minnewaska's Dylan Jergenson (middle) is encouraged by teammates prior to a match on Dec. 21 at Minnewaska High School. This season, Jergenson is 17-2 and ranked seventh at 220 pounds in Class A. Joe Brown / Tribune

GLENWOOD - Taking the mat on Dec. 21 for a home quad meet, Minnewaska's Dylan Jergenson was one of the more dominant figures on the mat.

The seventh-ranked 220-pounder in Class A, the Lakers junior secured a pair of first-period pins, bumping his 2018-19 record to 17-2 through 2018. His only losses thus far are to a former state champion and a fourth-place finisher at last year's state tournament.

While he's excelling on the mat, Jergenson has a new-found appreciation for the sport of wrestling. A year ago, it was nearly taken away from him after a fall off a vehicle left him with a traumatic brain injury.

"It's been a roller coaster," Dylan said. "I didn't know how much I appreciated wrestling until I got back."

"He's lucky to even be alive and be with us today," said Teresa Jergenson, Dylan's mother. "We're thankful he's alive and blessed that he's able to participate and do some sporting events."

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The fall

On Sept. 3, 2017, Dylan and some friends went hunting outside of Brooten. One of the portable goose blinds didn't fit in the sports-utility vehicle they were driving, so Jergenson stood on the bumper and held the blind up on the roof while two others were holding on through open windows.

"Bad choice," Dylan admitted.

The wind caught the front of the blind, knocking Dylan off the back bumper. He hit his head on the ground on County Road 27.

"It was about 7:34 (a.m.) when we got the call," Teresa said. "It was his friend's mom that called and said he was unresponsive. They told us they called and they are potentially having a helicopter come pick him up at the scene. Then we got a call that, yes, he was being airlifted and to head to St. Cloud immediately. It was very scary not knowing if he was going to survive."

Dylan suffered a skull fracture with brain bleeding and a severe concussion, along with abrasions to his arm, hands and head. Due to his age and injuries, Dylan was transferred to the Minneapolis Children's Hospital to meet with a neurologist.

"All I remember was going out with my friends before hunting," Dylan said. "Before I chose to go on the back of that vehicle, I don't remember that. Then it's five days in the hospital before I remember anything."

Being from a small town like Glenwood, word of Dylan's injury traveled fast.

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"I knew within 10 minutes of it happening," said Chip Rankin, Minnewaska wrestling coach and District 2149 superintendent. "It was heartbreaking because you think of a good-spirited kid and family. Then the blame on the friends, you don't want that to happen.

"(Dylan) is a mainstay in his class," Rankin added. "His older brother (Jaeger, a freshman football player at Concordia-Moorhead) is a mainstay in his class. They're kids everyone knows, loves and appreciates."

On Sept. 11, Dylan was discharged from the hospital.

Time to recover

Able to laugh about it now, Dylan remembers how stir crazy he was.

"I couldn't be on (electronic) screens after the accident," he said. "I would be bored out of my mind sitting at home and hoping for the recovery speed to go faster."

For several weeks after the accident, Dylan had to be in speech therapy while being homeschooled. Eventually, he was able to attend half-days at school to ease him back into the classroom.

"He definitely wanted to be with his friends, but you could tell it was too much stimulus for him," Teresa said. "Even now, I think it takes some time to get some things to click when he's tired. He wanted to be with his friends and have socialization."

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Said Dylan, "For two weeks, I would come in after lunch or before lunch. It was just good to see my friends and everybody that would text me and say they hoped I was feeling better."

Later in the fall, Dylan was finally able to return to school full-time.

"Right away, my memory was a little slow," Dylan said. "It's been a process to get better. I feel 100 percent now, feeling great."

"The cognitive stuff, he's come a long way," Teresa said. "If there's something new to him it takes a few times. But when he's done it, it really clicks. He's doing well in all his classes. The teachers have been very supportive and helpful. He's on a 504 Plan (for those with a disability to receive academic accommodations) and he hasn't needed it this year.

"He's come a long ways and hopefully will lead a normal life."

Watching, waiting

Dylan defines himself as a sporty kid. So does mom, so the hiatus was tough to take.

"He's the one that always needed physical activity," Teresa said. "If he doesn't get that, his mood really changes. He really needs that physical activity and drive and he thrives on that."

With his injuries, Dylan was forced to miss his sophomore seasons in football and wrestling.

He couldn't compete, but Dylan wasn't about to stay away. He was cheering from the sidelines during football. As for wrestling, he was there like another coach, offering encouragement to his teammates.

"I still felt like I was part of the team," Dylan said. "Sitting in practice and hanging out with the guys was a good time."

In Rankin's mind, it could make for a future career path.

"He's charismatic," Rankin said. "I tease him and tell him he's going to be my replacement. He was a good leader on the bench last year. He came to every practice and he worked out with us. I see him being a teacher and a coach someday. He's good with his teammates and he's always positive."

The time away from the mat helped Dylan gain some different knowledge.

"During tournaments, I would watch my weight and see who was working out," he said. "I just knew when the summer hit and I was cleared I was going to hit it hard and go to camps."

A three-sport athlete, Dylan was finally cleared in the spring to play baseball.

"To be honest, it was very scary," Teresa said. "The trauma team said he shouldn't be doing any contact sports and neurology said he was cleared, so who do you listen to. All the sports he does are contact sports, so it was very scary knowing that a ball could knock him out or sliding into a base could knock him out. It was very exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time."
Mom was stressing. And early on, Dylan was as well. But being back in his competitive element, that panic subsided quickly.

"My first at-bat, on the on-deck circle, I was shaking," Dylan said. "But after the first at-bat, the jitters were gone."

Back in his element

In a physical sport like wrestling, Rankin does worry about Dylan, much the same way he'd worry about his own kid.

"I get so nervous for him because I want him to compete and I don't want him to have a relapse," Rankin said. "He's such a good kid that you want good things for him."

Dylan was able to alleviate some of that concern over the summer while competing in the Malecek Wrestling Camp in Wisconsin Dells, finishing with an 8-1 record.

A lineman on the Lakers' football team, Jergenson was named the team's most improved player and an all-district selection after Minnewaska reached the Section 5AA championship game this fall.

To help protect Dylan's head, the district got him a VICIS helmet. The helmet was rated five stars by Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, which helps identity more concussion-averse helmets for consumers. For wrestling, Dylan has headgear with added padding to the front and back of his head.

"There's nothing we're going to spare to make sure he stays healthy," Rankin said.

Dylan has also altered his wrestling style, namely not leading with his head as much. So far, so good as he's currently the top 220-pounder in Section 5A and hoping to qualify for his first state tournament.

There will always be some panic, out of love, from mom.

"It's exciting to watch," Teresa said. "It's nerve-wracking at the same time, but very fun to see him out there and enjoying himself and having a good time."

Over a year ago, in a case of mistaken teenage invulnerability, Dylan almost lost his life. Today, if you didn't know about the accident, it'd be easy to assume he is just another high school kid.

"Anybody that asks, I tell them to enjoy while you're doing it," Dylan said. "At one point, you can mess up something for the rest of your life. Thank God I'm back and I'm able to do stuff everyone else is able to do."

"You couldn't pick a more Cinderella story for the kid," Rankin said. "He's only a junior so you don't know how good he'll be. It's also a good life lesson for our other kids that this can be taken away from you in a heartbeat. So, be careful at all times."

Related Topics: WRESTLING
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