Spinal Stenosis ends wrestler’s career

Blake Dahmen

Gophers wrestler Brandon Sitch’s career came to an end recently when University of Minnesota doctors diagnosed him with spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spine.

The disorder causes the spinal cord to compress and can lead to nerve pinching, persistent pain and decreased physical activity. Resulting numbness can cause wounds to become severely infected in patients because they can be unaware of injuries, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sitch’s condition was discovered in May after he returned to Minnesota from the Junior Freestyle National Tournament in Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, an injury caused his entire body to go numb.

University doctors performed surgery later in May to fix the problem in his neck. But during a late July re-evaluation, doctors learned the problem had not been corrected and determined it was too dangerous for Sitch to continue to wrestle at a high level.

Sitch, a scholarship athlete, was entering his sophomore season with the Gophers. He had compiled a 16-5 record through his first two seasons.

The 174-pound slot would have been open for Sitch after it was left vacant by the graduation of Gabriel Dretsch.

“He was our projected starter this year,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “It’s a big loss for our team.”

Since the end of the 2006-07 season, Sitch was showing signs he was ready to handle a larger role for the Gophers.

He won the 185-pound class at the Junior World Trials Greco-Roman wrestling championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., earning him a trip to the Junior World Championships in Beijing. It also gave him a spot on the 2007 FILA Junior World Team where he won the 174-pound Greco-Roman and took third in freestyle.

He was finally healthy and ready to advance his career before this happened, Sitch’s father Dennis Sitch told the Washington Wrestling Report.

Brandon Sitch’s career at Minnesota got off to a slow start when he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament only a week into practices as a true freshman. The injury required surgery and limited him to only four matches that season.

A native of Kelso, Wash., Sitch was a four-time state wrestling champion for Kelso High School. He was only the fourth wrestler in Washington state history to accomplish the feat.

Sitch, who was in Oregon helping at a J Robinson camp and unavailable for comment, will stay with the team as an assistant.