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Eric Peterson, Published March 14 2013

Concordia's Schmitz comes back after suffering knee infection

Moorhead - Nathan Schmitz nearly had to put his senior wrestling season on hold after a hospital stay on a couple months on antibiotics.

“It definitely crossed my mind whether I wanted to take this semester off or the whole year off and wrestle next year,” said the Concordia wrestler from Perham, Minn.

An infection in the wake of knee surgery was the culprit.

“A lot of guys probably would have cashed it in and he just kept on it,” said Cobbers associate head coach Matt Nagel.

Schmitz didn’t fold, even though he didn’t wrestle his first match until two months into the season.

That late start did not prevent him from placing second at 197 pounds at the West Regional. He earned a trip to the NCAA Division III tournament, which starts today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I’m getting better every day,” said Schmitz, who has a 15-4 record on the season. “I can feel that.”

Schmitz had surgery on his knee last October, a procedure that was first expected to sideline him for a few weeks.

Less than a week after surgery, Schmitz went to get the stitches removed. His knee was swollen and warm. The doctor didn’t like the looks of the fluid taken from the knee. Schmitz had an infection and would end up in the hospital for four days.

Schmitz had a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line put into his arm to use for antibiotics once he left the hospital.

Schmitz said he infused an orange-sized elastic ball of antibiotics into his system three times a day for about six weeks through the PICC line. That was followed with two weeks of oral antibiotics. The infection forced Schmitz to miss a couple weeks of class.

“He ended up going home,” said Concordia sophomore Sebastian Gardner, who is also a roommate of Schmitz. “He kind of needed to be helped. He is pretty independent. He likes to take care of himself.”

The Cobbers wrestled in their first tournament in early November. Schmitz didn’t return to practice until early January. He didn’t wrestle his first match until Jan. 19.

Gardner could tell it was hard for Schmitz to not be able to practice with the team while he was out with the infection.

“He is so much a lead by example,” Gardner said. “He almost felt like he was an outsider. He was on the team, but he wasn’t.”

Schmitz earned All-American status a season ago, finishing in fifth place at 197 at the D-III national tournament. Despite a shaky start to this season, he’s hoping for a strong finish.

“I want to get to the top of the podium,” Schmitz said.

“I think the final note on his story is going to be the huge waves he makes this weekend,” Gardner said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com