DES MOINES – A fifth-place finish wasn’t what the doctor ordered, but one was needed for Skyler St. John.
The Cedar Rapids Prairie 145-pounder battled foes, while fighting a severe virus sent him to an area hospital between the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, to place fifth at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A state tournament Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“It was pretty tough,” St. John said. “I had to keep my head high, go match-by-match, not think about it and stay strong.”
Fifth-ranked St. John opened with a 6-3 win over Waverly-Shell Rock’s No. 7 Corey Abernathy, but things went south from there. Symptoms started during a van ride he won’t soon forget.
“We were driving back to the hotel,” St. John said. “It hit me like a brick wall.”
And nearly laid him out like one. St. John began vomiting at the hotel and got very little sleep as it continued until weigh-ins before Friday’s quarterfinals. St. John said he felt like passing out and Prairie Coach Blake Williams said St. John had to be assisted to weigh, which was confirmed by another Metro coach.
“He probably threw up 20 times from Thursday night to Friday morning,” Williams said. “He barely could stand at weigh-ins.”
St. John tipped the scales at 142, seven pounds under the weight’s maximum allowance. Williams was concerned with St. John’s well-being. He didn’t know how to proceed, but knew St. John needed attention before going out to pin Des Moines East’s Josh Davis in 4:38 of the quarterfinals.
“I was really desperate,” Williams said. “We didn’t know what to do. Emergency personnel here gave him an IV after weigh-ins.
“He had nothing in his system. No food. No drink. He couldn’t hold it in.”
St. John initially refused the treatment. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea but wore down.
“I don’t really like needles,” St. John said. “I knew they weren’t going to leave until we did. I just got it over with.”
Things actually became worse, landing St. John in the hospital for about four hours before he returned to Wells Fargo Arena for a heartbreaking 5-2 loss to Burlington’s Austin Boyd in the semifinals. Worries of appendicitis or liver problems were cleared up while medical staff ran blood work.
“He just slept there with an IV in him,” Williams said. “He wrestled the semifinals and then that night he started to get better.”
He was still weak Saturday, but was starting to be able to consume some solid food. St. John suffered a 3-2 loss to Linn-Mar’s top-ranked Joel Northrup in the consolation semifinals but dropped Indianola’s Matt Victor, 5-4, for fifth place.
“It was really tiring, but I had to put it in the back of my mind,” St. John said. “All my energy got drained right away. There’s nothing you can do about it. They aren’t going to take it easy on you.”
Considering everything St. John endured, a fifth-place finish is a strong accomplishment. It is not what he had hoped for, but demonstrated his toughness.
“He was better, but you can see he was zapped,” Williams said about Saturday’s performance. “I don’t think too many kids could go through what he did.”