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Anaconda matmen head to state without Skocilich

Senior captains Connor Sampson, right, Skocilich and junior Dan Byrne, far left, wrap up the final dual at home during the 2018-19 season. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

Following Saturday’s 18 second pin in the 145-pound championship match at the Southern B/C divisional, Dylan Skocilich was toting the No. 1 seed heading into this weeks state tournament. When they left for Billings Thursday, Skocilich was just there to support his teammates. 

What wasn’t widely known during his dominating title performance was Skocilich probably shouldn’t even have been on the mat. 

During his quarterfinal match, he landed awkwardly and felt a pop in his shoulder. Not knowing the severity, Skocilich wrestled through the pain. He eventually pinned Colton Burns in 2:51, but as his father explained, something didn’t seem right. 

Anaconda wrestlers on the 2018-19 season poster

“He was in tears, I knew he was hurt,” said Ray Skocilich the day after the tournament. 

What was initially thought to be a sprain or at worst feeling the effects of a dislocation turned into a their worst nightmare. A torn labrum, and as their orthopedic wisely suggested, the end of Skocilich’s prep career. 

Copperhead senior Dylan Skocilich ends his final match at the Snake Pit with a pin. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

“It hits you pretty hard,” said a dejected team captain and lifelong member of the Lil’ Copperheads growing up. “I’m upset, that’s for sure, but I guess it’s something you’re always risking when you are out there and competing.”

In football, this injury is fairly common. Once a brace is worn, it’s protected enough to play through depending on the severity and, quite honestly, the toughness of the athlete. Just two years ago Anaconda’s Braxton Hill played the final four football games and an entire basketball season with a torn left labrum. And as mentally and physically tough overcoming the pain associated with having your shoulder popping in and out of socket during any type of trauma while playing, wrestling through that injury is nearly impossible.

In the end, after listening to Dr. Mike Gallagher at Montana Orthopedics and to his coach Joe Casey, friends and fellow wrestlers, Dylan made the tough decision to hang it up. 

“I heard both sides, talked with a lot of friends in the wrestling community and talked with a lot of medical professionals and they all said it wasn’t worth it in the end,” he said. 

One tie up, one escape, one pinning combination or an awkward landing could all lead to further damage and maybe even irreparable harm. And with all information weighing on him, he was still contemplating giving it a go. Today it’s just the labrum, but it could’ve lead to much bigger problems. 

“Either way there’s drawbacks,” Dylan said. “But it’s better to just swallow my pride and get the surgery done instead of risking tearing the rotator cuff too.”

“It’s heartbreaking, I think he had a good shot at placing,” said Nora Schillo, Dylan’s mother. “But I have to respect his decision.”

So rewind to Saturday afternoon with one good shoulder and in unimaginable pain. With no strength in his right arm, Dylan pressed on. He pinned Nathan Hollar of Columbus/Absarokee in the semis in 3:13 to set up the title match between Eli Schreher. 

“He knew he wanted to get it over with quick,” Schillo said. “Then boom, as soon as the whistle blows he had the double and had (Eli) on his back.”

With all that information knowing what must have been racing in the mind of the Copperhead captain, his goal-defining feat of winning a divisional championship seems all the more legendary considering the circumstances. 

Skocilich finished the season at 37-8 and essentially forfeited his final chance to stand on the podium at the best high school sporting event in Montana. And although it doesn’t feel like it now, Skocilich did what so many athletes fail or don’t have the opportunity to do during their playing days – go out on top. 

Dan Byrne in his final match of the season at Memorial Gymnsaium. COPPERHEAD COUNTRY/Blake Hempstead

HEADS AT STATE

Three wrestlers will compete for Anaconda in Billings – Brad Connolly (16-10, 103 pounds), Dan Byrne (39-12, 132 pounds) and Jake Whaley (6-11, 205 pounds). Connolly and Byrne each placed third and Whaley took fourth. You can track their progress by logging on to trackwrestling.com and searching the MHSA state tournament. 

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