A Great Feeling: Brick Memorial’s Alec Donovan
ATLANTIC CITY - This past summer, Brick Memorial junior wrestler Alec Donovan spent the longest 96 hours of his life hoping and praying that the feeling in his right arm would return.
“It was terrifying,’’ Donovan said. "I had no idea if the feeling would come back."
On Sunday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, that same arm was raised by an official to signal that Donovan had just finished seventh in the state at 145 pounds in the NJSIAA Individual Championships.
“That was an incredible feeling,’’ Donovan said.
Donovan’s ordeal began when he was wrestling an opponent from Michigan as part of Team New Jersey at the USA Nationals in Daytona, Fla., in June.
“He shot, I blocked it with my arm, and then my arm dropped and I fell back to the mat,’’ Donovan said. "I was so scared that I was not going to have use of my right arm back."
“He was one point from a tech (technical fall), and he got nailed right in the neck and they carted them off,’’ said Tom Donovan, Alec’s father. “It was very nerve-wracking.”
For the next 96 hours, Donovan’s right arm was completely numb. He said a nerve connected to his spinal cord had been affected, causing the numbness.
“My dad was scared, and my mom was crying because they didn’t know if I would have use of my right arm again,’’ Donovan said.
“They didn’t know if the nerve was going to come back,’’ his father said.
Finally, after four anxiety-ridden days and a trip to see Dr. James Royle at Royle Sports Chiropractic in Jackson, Donovan began to regain feeling in his arm.
“I was scared for the first two days and slowly my fingers started to have feeling, and they started to work,’’ Donovan said. “Luckily I went to see Dr. Royle and he helped me rehabilitate my arm.”
Within about three weeks after regaining feeling in his arm, Donovan was back on the mat, albeit hesitantly. He had to work to put the fear out of his mind that another block of an awkward shot or unnatural movement would cause his arm to drop helplessly to his side again.
“Within the first month of wrestling it was in my head, but then I stopped favoring it and babying it like I was,’’ he said.
Donovan said his doctor has declared his arm to be fully healed.
“It was hard, but kids are resilient,’’ his father said. “He came back and worked hard.”
Donovan won the District 23 title at 145 and was undefeated going into the Region VI final before falling 3-2 to rival Zach Wilhelm of Southern, whom he had beaten during a regular-season dual meet. He won his first match in overtime in Atlantic City on Friday night before losing 2-1 in overtime to eventual runner-up Ryan Burkert of St. Peter’s Prep in the pre-quarterfinals. Donovan fought back to win three matches in the consolation bracket on Saturday before running into Wilhelm again in a 6-3 loss. He rebounded from that to post a win in his final match of the season, edging Hunterdon Central senior Collin Boylan 1-0 on a second-period escape on Sunday to cement a seventh-place finish in the state.
Donovan made it to Atlantic City as a sophomore thanks to a third-place finish in Region VI at 138, but did not place in the top eight in concluding a 33-10 season. This time around, he was able to survive the physical and mental grind of the consolation bracket to make it to the podium. He also put himself only 10 wins away from joining the long list of greats at one of the state’s top programs in the 100-win club next season.
“I was there last year in the same spot, the same place, and lost in the same round,’’ he said. “I was definitely more confident. I knew what to expect. I knew how to save my energy and rebuild it during the breaks. I wasn’t too sure last year, but this year I got that under control, which helped me have energy during the match.”
“He’s on the stand,’’ his father said. “That’s always the best. End with a win.”
Going from no feeling to a euphoric feeling made last summer seem like a long time ago.
“It’s a big difference,’’ Donovan said. “This is going to put me in a great mood for this summer.”