Dathan Wickson’s wrestling story wowed Jordan Burroughs

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Jordan Burroughs has seen the gamut in nearly a decade at the highest level of wrestling, from Olympic and world titles to significant injury to devastating defeat. Then Burroughs heard about high school wrestler Dathan Wickson Jr. and was floored.

Wickson received the Courage Award from Burroughs during USA Today‘s High School Sports Award show Thursday night.

Less than two years earlier, Wickson spent four hours having a cyst that grew into a tumor removed from between his brain and his skull.

“Wow, just incredible what this kid has been able to overcome in a short period of time,” Burroughs said by phone Thursday evening. “Typically, the adversity that you overcome as an athlete are injuries: a torn labrum, a torn ACL or some sort of injury that happens that’s wrestling related, but this is one of the few times you see an individual that has to overcome something as serious as brain surgery.”

It all began when Wickson was 10 years old. In his sleep, he fell off a couch and hit his head on a coffee table. Doctors closed the wound. Wickson felt fine and went about regular life, including wrestling and playing football.

Then Wickson developed headaches as a high school freshman, so intense that he underwent tests. They showed a crack in his skull, which was connected to that fall several years earlier. A cyst had formed, leaking spinal fluid.

“I was really scared at first because I never think I have to have brain surgery,” Wickson said. “Then, when it started to come down to it [surgery day], my family was really close to me and telling me everything was going to be OK.”

Doctors told Wickson that he would be able to wrestle again. He returned in full this past season.

“At first it was really tough,” coming back from surgery, Wickson said. “I couldn’t do anything at all. We’re just sitting back, watching everybody [practice]. And I like to take action. I don’t like to sit back and watch what other people do, and I can’t do anything. It was a really tough time, but I knew I had to get back out there on the mat.”

His dad and coach, Dathan Sr., was so confident his son would be unaffected in competition that his primary concern was the move from 120 pounds as a freshman to 152 pounds as a junior.

“After he started to go, just the timing of being back on the mat was a big struggle, reacting to his opponents and stuff like that,” his dad said.

Wickson persevered. He won nine straight matches at one point and became the only wrestler from his school — (Rockford, Ill.) Boylan Catholic — to reach the state tournament.

The goal next season is to win a state title. Wickson wants to wrestle collegiately. If he does both, he would follow the path set by his favorite wrestler Burroughs, who didn’t win a state title until his senior year.

“This is a great story, inspirational story,” Burroughs told Wickson on the phone. “When you’re living it, you can’t really see how cool it is, the accomplishments that you’re making and the strides that you’re gaining while you’re living it, but it’s pretty cool to see from the outside looking in.”

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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