High school wrestling: Perry's Riley Rowan guts through state tourney with torn labrum

Mar. 11—COLUMBUS — Have you ever wanted to know what it's like to wrestle in the state wrestling tournament with one arm?

Ask Perry's Riley Rowan. He's doing it this weekend.

A junior 120-pounder, Rowan tore the labrum in his right shoulder prior to the start of the season. After talking his father — and Perry head coach — Dave Rowan to put off surgery until after the season, Rowan went 1-1 on the first day of this year's state tournament by wrestling a completely different style than any other time in his life.

Rowan lost a 14-4 major decision to Legacy Christian's Nathan Attisano in his tournament opener on March 10, but he bounced back with a 3-2 decision over Liberty Center's Drew Matthews. He bowed out with a 4-2 decision loss to North Union's Trace Williams in a Day 2 match that the Rowans never thought they'd see this year.

"I didn't think we'd be here," Dave Rowan said. "In November when he hurt his shoulder, I thought we were done. He talked me out of it. I'm glad he did."

His son didn't come back to wrestle until after the turn of the new year. He came into this year's state tournament with only 18 matches under his belt this season, sporting an impressive 16-2.

What's more impressive is that he's done it by changing his wrestling style to protect his right shoulder.

"It sucks because I can't really shoot or anything," Riley Rowan said. "I can't really go to my right side. It's tough. Every match comes down to the end.

"It's definitely a challenge to try to figure out what to do and what not to do. Test the limits, kinda. It's a lot different than the last couple years of trying to be aggressive."

Instead, it's been a survive-and-advance kind of year for him. For instance, he defaulted his sectional championship match against Lake Catholic's Joey Romano, choosing to save wear and tear on house shoulder rather than risk injury.

A week later at the Perry District, he defaulted his semifinal match and went to the consolation bracket, winning two matches there to place third and punch a ticket to the Schottenstein Center.

"He's had to change his whole style of wrestling," Dave Rowan said. "He's (usually) all right side and now he's going to the left. He's just a tough kid who refuses to lose."

If there is a silver lining regarding Rowan's injury, it's that he is a junior. He can come back next season 100 percent and make a run at the state title that has evaded him this season. The journey starts on March 14 — two days after the 2023 state tournament ends — when Rowan has surgery to repair the torn labrum in his shoulder.

His father pointed out the benefit of the injury, if there is one.

"To know he can make adjustments and still compete and win matches down here is big," he said. "This helps his confidence. And confidence is a big part of wrestling."

His son took it a step further, combining the confidence of winning less than 100 percent with a new style he's been forced to learn — and more.

"I think it's also being able to come out here and get the experience of the crowd and atmosphere," he said of the Schottenstein experience. "I think it's good for this year and now I'm looking forward to next year."