In sports, as in everyday life, it seems some people get all the breaks.
Oak Harbor High School senior Michael Fisken is one of those — but his breaks, unfortunately, are literal and not metaphorical.
Fisken, a three-sport star, has suffered a series of injuries, including several broken bones, that have muted his promising career. The most recent setback is the most serious.
Fisken broke and dislocated his ankle, tearing some ligaments as well, in a wrestling practice mishap Thursday, Dec. 27.
He was drilling with Oak Harbor graduate and collegiate wrestler Sam Zook, home from Central College (Pella, Iowa) for Christmas break, when their legs got tangled, causing the freakish and devastating injury.
Ironically, Zook is what Fisken was aiming to be, a Washington state 3A heavyweight champion.
Zook won the state crown in 2017, and Fisken was a legitimate contender for the 2019 title.
After earning first-team, all-league honors, Fisken qualified for last year’s 3A state tournament in the 220-pound class despite missing the first half of the season after breaking a bone in his hand playing football and fighting through a hip injury that required surgery after the season.
This year he was ranked fifth in the state in the 285-pound division by the Washington Wrestling Report heading into the Graham Morin Invitational Dec. 15 at Bellingham’s Squalicum High School.
In the early rounds of the Morin tournament, Fisken pinned the seventh-ranked 2A and fourth-ranked 3A wrestlers. Fisken then captured the tournament title by beating 3A’s top-ranked Dominick Mack on his home mat. Mack finished sixth in the 2017-18 state meet.
That success lifted Fisken to second in the latest rankings behind Josh Guzik of Spokane’s Rogers High School, who placed eighth at state last year.
Fisken, now, will never know if he could have followed Zook to a state tournament title.
“I seriously thought I could win state,” Fisken said. “I was feeling strong and in better shape than the other heavyweights. I didn’t think there was any other heavyweights who could beat me.”
Fisken said that at 250 pounds (wrestlers can weight up to 285 in the heavyweight class), he “wasn’t a true heavyweight.”
“I was confident at that weight,” he said. “I was smaller but quicker than most — I had that advantage — and I wasn’t small strength wise.”
With his dreams dashed, Fisken’s spirits were lifted by the support of his coaches and teammates.
Coaches Larry Falcon and Peter Esvelt went to the hospital with Fisken, staying for “seven or eight” hours as he awaited surgery, and a steady stream of teammates have dropped by the Fisken home.
The hip surgery after last wrestling season derailed a promising junior season in track. Fisken was one of the state’s top discus throwers but couldn’t compete until mid-April.
“It was a slow recovery,” he said. “It was a little frustrating because I knew I could do it but I was too out of shape.”
One thing that buoyed his spirits at the time was the realization he had another year of eligibility.
That year — this year — however is following an eerily similar pattern as last year.
It will be eight weeks, about the time track season starts, before Fisken can put weight on his injured ankle.
“I’m glad it (the injury) happened now,” he said. “I should be able to start working out when track season starts and hope to be 100 percent by the end of the season.”
To assure he can bounce back, he has to “be smart” during the recovery process, he said. “I can’t start too early and cause more problems.”
His football career has also been interrupted with injuries. In addition to the broken hand suffered during the homecoming game his junior season, he incurred a concussion this fall that forced him out of two games.
Despite sitting out those two league contests, Fisken, a two-way starter as an offensive lineman and linebacker, received all-Wesco honorable mention.
The parade of injuries hasn’t affected Fisken’s academic success. The son of John and Diane Fisken is an honor student with a 3.78 grade point average and plans to study business at the University of Washington or Oregon State University. If healthy, he hopes to walk on to the track team at his chosen college and toss the discus.
Through it all, Fisken has remained positive,
“Everything happens for a reason,” Fisken said. “Don’t let an injury be the end of you; become stronger because of it.”