Vista Ridge senior Kelby Davis was on the fast track to a legendary high school wrestling career. Then an ATV accident on Easter in 2016 broke his leg into a 45 degree angle.
Davis and his brother had been spending the whole day playing on an ATV at their Grandpa's ranch. Davis wasn’t wearing his seatbelt when his brother made a sharp turn toward the house. Davis tried to jump out of the way, but the edge of the roof caught his shin and broke his tibia and fibula.
The accident happened less than a week before he was ready to compete at a national competition in Virginia following his second high school season. Two surgeries and 18 months of rehab later, the Ranger is back on the wrestling mat and looking to qualify for the state meet for the third time in his career.
“I’m grateful,” Davis said. “I don’t take it for granted anymore. Freshman and sophomore year, I really wasn’t thinking that could happen to me or I could break a bone. Now, every practice I go to, I thank God.”
At the Hill Country Invitational on Dec. 18, Davis finished 8-0, beating Dripping Springs senior Anthony Bigley 13-0 in the final round en route to a first-place finish in the 195-pound weight class.
Next up for the Rangers is the two-day Cy-Fair Invitational at the Berry Center near Houston on Friday and Saturday. The district championship is Feb. 8, regionals are Feb. 16-17 at the Blossom Athletic Center, and State is on Feb. 23-24 at the Berry Center.
“Over 18 months, you can probably lose hope,” Vista Ridge wrestling coach David Burdick said. “We started to do the little stuff on the mat and then we started to condition and it all just seemed like it was ok.”
Davis and his family thought the first surgery went well after a couple visits with the doctor, but an x-ray showed his leg hadn’t healed correctly. He went to rehab twice a week for two hours at a time.
The trainers at Vista Ridge recommended a different doctor, who performed a second surgery during Christmas break of his junior year. It went better and the recovery process was smooth, which included going to rehab before and after school.
For the rest of his life, he’ll have a screw in his knee and one down near his ankle with a rod going the length of his leg.
“I went to a foot specialist and I went to some ankle doctors and they told me I wouldn’t ever be able to wrestle again,” Davis said. “I had that mindset all junior year. It was a low part of my life.”
At first, Burdick wasn’t too worried about the injury because everybody heals up. But as the process moved along and it became clear Davis's bones weren’t healing correctly, his heart broke for the wrestler.
“He calls me and goes ‘Coach, I messed up and broke my leg. I’m in the car headed to the hospital,’” Burdick said. “For me, I was so excited to see the progress, especially this summer, where he looked like Kelby from two years ago.”
Burdick said there wasn’t much he had to change as far as wrestling technique, it's all about conditioning. He’s always worried about the senior getting hurt again, but with the progress he’s made, the prospects are exciting.
“He wrestles like a man,” Burdick said. “I’m just so happy that he has the ability to get back on the mat and do something he loves.”
Davis would still love to go to and wrestle in college. He’s just waiting for the right opportunity to come, whether it be a letter or a phone call.
With two doctors telling him wrestling might not ever happen again, his parents encouraged him to jump back into the sport headfirst and make the best of his senior year.
That’s exactly what he’s on track to do.
“I’m going all the way,” Davis said. “When people come up to me and tell me I’m good or you just beat that guy, I try to stay humble. But nothing is stopping me.”