HELENA — Nathon Elmose’s story is not a tragedy, nor is it one of triumph yet.
During his freshman season two years ago, Elmose wrestled for Helena High with his right leg wrapped almost completely in a leg brace. The injury was one that left him wondering if he’d wrestle again.
"I was wrestling in AAU state over in Great Falls," said Elmose. "I was doing a stand-up and the kid dropped my knee, and I went the opposite direction."
“As soon as that happened, we kind of knew that he was done," said Sam Bogard, Helena High's head wrestling coach. "His ACL and his meniscus were torn.”
Elmose required surgery for the injury and rehabbed is right leg for the better part of a year because he wanted to wrestle again. As his freshman season was getting ready to start, the issue was convincing the health professionals he’d worked with during his rehabilitation that he was fit to wrestle. That’s where Bogard had his back.
“His therapist came up here, I believe it was the first day of practice, and he tested them out up here. (Elmose) moves a lot different when he wrestles than when he does when he's not wrestling, and I had to explain that to his therapist," said Bogard. "(Elmose's therapist) came up here to check to see how his movements were and that's when he got cleared, it was actually the first day of wrestling practice.“
The stipulation: Elmose was required to wear that large knee brace to mitigate the risk of re-injuring his knee.
“It was just kind of a weird experience, coming to practice every day -- 20 minutes, take it on, 20 minutes, put it off. It was just no fun at all,” said Elmose.
Despite the hurdles placed in front of Elmose, he pressed on because he knew something was on the horizon.
“I saw something ahead of time," said Elmose. "I knew it was coming. I had something big coming. I just had to wait and get over the challenge and fear of having to tear it again.”
Elmose wrestled his way through his freshman season to a state tournament berth despite the brace. Though he felt comfortable enough to take the brace off for his sophomore season, Elmose said he lacked the confidence to really wrestle with his right knee. This season, Elmose said he’s letting it fly.
“I used to be afraid of it last year quite a bit, and that's why I didn't do us quite as well," he said. "This year, I have no regrets going back. I tear it, I tear it. I get injured, I get injured. I'm just going out there and giving it 100%, giving it my all.”
In some ways, Elmose’s approach could be considered living with reckless abandon, but Elmose doesn’t see it that way. To him, this year is an opportunity to show other wrestlers who the real Nathon Elmose is.
“I call it having an opportunity again. I call it wanting to get out on the mat and showing people what I used to be, showing them that I'm still there. It's just taking a little bit longer to come back," he said.