Brian Owen’s wrestling career has been sidetracked by injuries too numerous to comprehend.
But the fifth-year junior at Boise State, ranked 15th nationally at 133 pounds, came home Saturday evening and clung to a 5-3 victory when the Broncos “hosted” rival Oregon State in their annual Border War before a packed house of some 2,500 spectators at Central Valley High School.
The match ended with stunning suddenness and the Beavers retained the Border Ax when junior 174-pounder Austin Morehead pinned Scott Bacon, a sophomore from Republic who had taken a 2-0 lead, midway through the first round for the 21-16 team triumph.
Boise State had rallied from a 15-10 deficit – after NCAA fourth-ranked Scott Sakaguchi edged No. 2 Jason Chamberlain 3-2 in the featured and pivotal 149-pound match – by winning twice on late scoring from George Ivanov at 157 pounds and Holden Packard’s takedown with 5 seconds left at 165.
Then Morehead dropped the bomb.
The road has been rocky for Owen since winning two state titles at University, yet he’s managed to wrestle in two NCAA tournaments despite red-shirting as a sophomore and, the next year, taking a medical hardship due to back injuries that have plagued him since in high school.
“My first back surgery came in high school my sophomore year,” Owen recounted following his Saturday triumph.
Further injuries after he first wrestled in the national tourney as a freshman resulted in therapy and then led to another surgery.
“They took two discs out and replaced them with titanium cages,” he said. Rods and screws were inserted and fused to his pelvis.
Following the two-year hiatus, he tore an ACL and last year missed the entire regular season before coming back at the end to win the Pac-12 championship and qualify for nationals again.
“I got lucky,” Owen said. “We developed a game plan to score once and hang on for dear life. It caught up to me at the national tournament.”
During Saturday’s duel, his approach was similar. He caught OSU’s Drew Van Anrooy for four quick points on a takedown and near-fall then hung on to give BSU a 10-6 team lead.
“I haven’t been feeling well (with a cold and a variety of ‘old man’ dings), but obviously that’s no excuse,” Owen said. “I was wrestling a freshman and I’ve been in college for five years. That’s a big advantage. I’ve got to compete hard and I didn’t do that today.”
But he’s been training well this year and said he can only go up from here.