O’Toole stays strong in Hershey

Liam O’Toole won 104 matches and qualified for the state tournament in Hershey. CONTRIBUTED

Liam O’Toole had some nagging injuries this year. He suffered a sprained ankle and a concussion, which cost him some practice time.

For some, those are major issues to overcome. To O’Toole, it’s all part of the game.

After all, he’s used to getting hurt. He’s also used to getting better and fighting through it.

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“I’m pretty used to getting better, whenever I was sick or hurt, I get better,” said O’Toole, a senior wrestler at Archbishop Ryan High School. “When I was younger I had a problem where I couldn’t digest food properly. It took some time. Then I had appendicitis. Then when I was in seventh grade, I had to have reconstructive foot surgery on both of my feet. They had to break them and rebuild them. That kept me out all of eighth grade.

“I tore my patella tendon, I broke my ankle, then I had the concussion and the sprained ankle. I’ve had a lot of injuries, but I always get better and get right back at it. I never let them get me down.”

During his entire life, O’Toole overcame freak injuries, and none of them have lingered into long-term problems. One thing that has been constant, at least during his high school career, has been victories.

This year, O’Toole won 34 matches and qualified for states in Hershey this weekend. He lost both of his matches, but he did enjoy a great career that included 105 career victories, a First-Team All-Catholic selection this year and fifth-place finish at regions. He was just one of five wrestlers from the Catholic League to qualify for states, but being a competitor, he wasn’t happy with just going.

“I’m disappointed, I wanted more,” said O’Toole, who wrestled most of the season at 152 pounds. “A lot of people tell me this is tough and all, but I expect more. Believe me, I really wanted to place and get on the podium. That’s why I came out here.”

Then he took a minute and realized what he did accomplish.

Every wrestler in the state wanted to be at the Giant Center this weekend, and only the elite were there.

“It is pretty cool, this is the best tournament in the country, the way I see it,” said O’Toole, who lives in Somerton. “It’s fun. The whole weekend is about wrestling. Everyone is here, there are so many great wrestlers here. There are a lot of great wrestlers who aren’t here. This is a great tournament. I’m really happy I got here, I just wanted more.”

O’Toole couldn’t ask for more from his team this year, or for the three years he was a member of the squad.

He spent his freshman year at La Salle, but due to the high tuition, he transferred. His family let him make the choice of where to go, and he picked Ryan.

“It was the best decision I ever made, coming here was great,” O’Toole said. “I love everything about it. I met some of the wrestlers before coming here, but once I got here, they’re my brothers. I love every one of them. La Salle was good, I liked it, but Ryan has been perfect for me.”

Ryan enjoyed a good season this year, going undefeated during the regular season before falling in a rematch to Father Judge in the Catholic League championship.

The Raiders then went on to win the Catholic League championship and the District 12 title at the individual tournaments.

“Everything about this year was great, other than not winning the championship,” O’Toole said. “We got Judge during the season, but they beat us in the championship. That hurt a lot. But we had a lot of good wrestlers.”

O’Toole will miss wrestling for the Raiders, but he plans on continuing his career. He’s unsure where he’ll end up, but he does know he wants to stay on the mat and eventually get back into physical therapy. But this time he won’t be working on getting himself better.

“I’m going to major in physical therapy because I’ve learned a lot about it from being hurt so much,” O’Toole said. “I’ve had so many people help me when I was hurt. I would love to do the same for someone else. I feel like I need to give back, and that’s the best thing for me.”

He’s been doing that in other ways, too.

O’Toole is the vice president of Athletes Helping Athletes at the school. His girlfriend, Sarah Vargas, is the president of the club. She got O’Toole to sign up for the club, and he’s happy she did.

“I would say other than wrestling, that’s the best thing about this year,” O’Toole said. “Those kids love it. They really get a lot out of it, and so do I. It’s great to see them have so much fun. And we’re having fun, too. It’s a great club.”

Almost as good a club as the trip to Hershey.

“I’m glad I got the opportunity to make states,” O’Toole said. “I really wanted to place, but I’m happy I got here.”