David McCullough wasn't supposed to get cleared to wrestle for another six weeks.
But after getting surgery on the meniscus in his knee, McCullough cut six weeks worth of rehab into two.
"That's how I knew God was with me," McCullough said.
McCullough, who has a 19-1 record, returned to the wrestling mat last week for the first time since he tore the meniscus on Jan. 20 against St. Augustine junior Salvatore Manera. The 152-pound Clearview junior won the District 30 title and received the most outstanding wrestler award at the tournament. He'll try to continue his success at Regions on Friday.
"I was scared with my knee that someone was going to keep going after it," McCullough said. "But once your adrenaline is pumping on the mat, you don't even think about it."
During McCullough's match against Manera, he tried to defend a shot by Manera that pushed him out of bounds. As he continued to go backward, McCullough landed awkwardly on the mat, which led to the tear, Clearview coach Steve Duncan said.
After Manera's shot, McCullough hobbled back to the center of the mat. Duncan said he told McCullough to take injury time to nurse his knee, but he refused and stayed on the mat.
When the injury occurred, McCullough held a two-point lead and wrestled injured for the remaining 45 seconds of the match to beat Manera, 5-2.
Before McCullough won the District 30 title last week, he practiced only on the Friday before the tournament.
McCullough was limited during the week of the surgery, but he still stopped by the wrestling room and Duncan's classroom during lunch to discuss how anxious he was to return.
Duncan said McCullough would stop by because he had to keep his weight down, and he didn't want to be surrounded by food.
"He was always showing his positivity," Duncan said. "He never shows self doubt or anything like that."
In January 2017, a concussion forced McCullough to miss a good chunk of the season. McCullough and Timber Creek junior Domenic Augello each attacked at the same time, which resulted in them colliding heads.
Duncan, who is also the defensive coordinator of Clearview's football team, called McCullough's collision one of the worst concussions he's seen. The injury forced McCullough to go to brain therapy three days each week and occasionally miss school.
By the time McCullough was cleared by the trainer, Duncan thought it would be better for McCullough not to risk another head injury.
McCullough then used the concussion and meniscus injury as a reason to return this season.
"I think that was all of the motivation in the world," Duncan said. "He was like, 'There's no way I'm missing anything.' "
at Toms River North
Friday: Quarterfinals, 5 p.m.
Saturday: Semifinals, 9 a.m.; finals, 5 p.m.
at Egg Harbor Twp.
Friday: Quarterfinals, 5:30 p.m.