By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Like many wrestlers, Graeson Dall has spent his entire career managing his weight and trying not to listen to his stomach.
Last month Dall finally relented. For the first time in his career he followed his stomach when his head told him something else.
That choice to go with his gut is the reason Dall is finishing his senior season wrestling at the state meet rather than watching from the stands.
A month ago Dall broke his fibula in three places during a practice.
The instant he heard the crack from his leg the Solon senior knew his wrestling career was done.
Dall spent the ride to the hospital trying to process what his brain already knew, his wrestling career was done.
As he sat at Iowa City’s Mercy Hospital that night, Dall had a strange feeling in his stomach.
“That night that it happened I thought I was done, state and everything else flashed through my head,” Dall said. “I got to the hospital and usually after meets I start eating and something was keeping me from eating and letting my weight go up but something was sitting in my stomach and I knew then it wasn’t over yet, not for me.”
The hospital visit confirmed what everyone from Solon already knew, Dall had a broken fibula.
It was lousy news for Dall isn’t half bad on the mat.
In fact, he is one of the best 152-pounders in Class 2A, ranked seventh with a 31-4 record when the injury occurred.
“That night when my coaches came to the hospital it was hard,” Dall said. “That was the hardest part, it was really emotional.”
With the start of the postseason two weeks away second-ranked Solon prepared for life without its senior 152-pounder.
The loss of Dall was devastating for a Solon team with seven ranked seniors and all-time high expectations.
“When he went down I got a little emotional, it felt like a part of me was gone,” Solon senior 160-pounder Trevor Nelson said. “I knew he had such high hopes.”
While everyone else began to move on Dall was having a hard time letting go.
The feeling in his stomach wasn’t going away.
By the time he left the hospital Dall had made up his mind, he wasn’t done.
He knew he had more in him.
“I thought I was done wrestling that night but I guess I changed my mind and I thought otherwise,” Dall said. “I didn’t want to let those circumstances end my season, I wasn’t going to go out like that.”
As Dall quickly found out, getting back on the wrestling mat with a broken leg was tough and that was before he even started working out.
First, he had a long list of important people to convince he could do it, starting with his mother Ann and doctors.
“My doctor pretty much told me that I was crazy and it wasn’t going to be possible but I thought differently,” Dall said. “He told me it was going to hurt.”
Getting permission from mom was even tougher.
“I had reservations of course but it’s his body and he knows his body,” Ann Dall said. “He knows all the risks and he’s weighed the positives and negatives and he feels this is something he has to do.”
Dall told coaches and teammates to hold his spot at 152 pounds, he’d be back in two weeks for sectionals.
His workout partner for four years and one of his closest friends, Nelson admitted he didn’t think the promise to return would amount to much.
The next day Dall was in the wrestling room.
“When he told us he was coming back I actually called him crazy,” Nelson said. “I didn’t believe him and then he showed up and did it and showed us exactly how tough he is.”
Solon coach Blake Williams left the decision to return up to Dall and his family.
First, the second-year Solon coach told Dall, you need to get into shape and see what you can do in the practice room.
Dall went to work.
He’d spend the school day on crutches and then work the exercise bike during practice in the wrestling room.
In the days leading up to the sectional meet Williams had Dall matchup with a few junior varsity wrestlers to see if he had a chance to compete.
The wrestlers came back with the news, he’s the same Graeson as before.
“We had to see him in the practice room a couple days if this could even be possible and just to see if he could actually do some things and he showed right away that he could,” Williams said. “We sent a couple of our JV wrestlers just to see how he could scrap and I asked them how was he and they said, ‘he looks great’.”
On February 4, less than three weeks after breaking his leg Dall went 2-0 at the 2A, Sectional 3 meet with a second-period pin and a 10-5 decision in the title match.
“It didn’t hurt too bad,” Dall said with a smile. “Getting past that was the biggest thing. That was a big confidence booster. Obviously getting past that weekend was the goal.”
Dall hasn’t slowed down.
Three days after sectionals he pinned Nolan Hinrichs of Mount Vernon in 54 seconds in the regional duals to help Solon advance to the state dual meet for the first time since 2001.
Last weekend, he secured his second career trip to the state meet with a runner-up finish at the 2A, District meet.
“It means everything to him and whenever he does something he gives 100 percent and puts his whole heart into it,” Ann Dall said. “I know that he knows his body well and I knew that if he thought he could do it, he could do it.”
Making it to the state meet is an accomplishment few wrestlers ever achieve. Doing it with a broken leg is nothing short of amazing.
Dall (36-5) wants more than to just make it to state.
He pinned Jaden Kampen of Humboldt in 3:13 in the 152-pound opening round to help Solon take an early lead in the 2A team race after one day.
“It was ripped out from me and I felt it that night when it was ripped out from me,” Dall said. “I didn’t see it coming and you don’t know when it’s going to be taken from you and that kind of hit home with me and I’m hungrier than ever now.”
Dall isn’t the only motivated Spartan.
The return of Dall to the lineup lit a fire under second-ranked Solon which has been impressive throughout the postseason.
“It just gets me so ready for all my matches seeing him,” Nelson said. “If he’s out there doing it on a broken leg then I should go out there and get it done. It just motivates you to work harder because he is working so hard and risking so much.”
Williams didn’t expect Dall back following the injury and had his own concerns about the senior wrestling through the injury.
Seeing him go 5-1 and return to the state tournament has been a reward for the wrestler Williams calls the hardest worker in the room.
“He has had to earn everything that he has gotten through hard work,” Williams said. “I don’t mean this as a dig on him but he’s not the most talented wrestler around but he makes up for it with his guts and his determination and his will. I’d take a room full of Greason Dall’s in a heartbeat.”
Dall will face No. 4 John Tuttle (37-4) of Spirit Lake in the quarterfinals on Friday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for a spot in the 2A semifinals.
It’s a long way from where Dall was a month earlier.
“At the hospital that first night there was no way I thought he could do it, and he thought he was done too,” Anne Dall said. “It was hard to see him think his wrestling career was over but he took one day at a time and here we are. I can’t believe it.”