Tally Thomas lifts Federal Way wrestling coach Travis Mango off the ground after winning the 4A state wrestling championship. Thomas tore a ligament in her knee at the tournament but still went on to win. Courtesy of Dennis Box

Thomas tears MCL at state wrestling tourney, out for softball season

Tally Thomas watched the video replay of her state championship wrestling match, and the moment the official and spectators missed was about to unfold.

Thomas cringes as it happens on the screen.

“Right there. See that?” she said this week, pointing to the screen.

The fateful moment happened toward the end of the second period in Thomas’ state championship match against Sunnyside’s Aylin Bautista when Thomas attempted a heist maneuver and her right knee turned in a way it is not meant to do. Despite immense pain, Thomas continued on with the match, one she’d win by pin fall to capture her first 4A state wrestling championship Feb. 18 at the Tacoma Dome.

What she, nor anyone else knew at the time, was the pain in her knee was actually the result of a medial collateral ligament tear in her knee, which was diagnosed later that night. The 4 minute, 41 second match against Bautista also forced Thomas to aggravate the pre-existing tears in her right labrum.

The injuries will force Thomas to miss the entire 2017 softball season. She will likely not play any more softball until she becomes a member of the Stanford Cardinal softball program in the fall.

Despite having to fight through the injury, Thomas and Federal Way coach Travis Mango knew immediately something was wrong. In the video, Thomas looks at her knee at one point, then has a brief exchange with Mango.

“Right here,” Thomas said, referencing back to the video. “I look at Mango. You can see he’s saying something, but I can’t hear him, but I remember saying ‘my knee hurts, why does my knee hurt? This doesn’t feel right.’ ”

Over the course of the match with Bautista, the pain grew more severe. Thomas was so focused, however, she pressed through. On a scale of one to 10, Thomas said the pain level was a three, but she attributed the grade to the adrenaline of the moment.

It wasn’t until the end of the match when Thomas walked off the Tacoma Dome stage that she and Mango realized something was seriously wrong.

In a moment of joy and celebration, Thomas picked Mango up off the ground and hugged him. When she finally set her coach down, Thomas realized she couldn’t move.

“She was like ‘I can’t walk,’” Mango recalled. “She literally couldn’t put any weight on her leg, and the mood turned from happiness and excitement to worry.”

She smiled on the outside through countless interviews and congratulations, but Thomas said she was in severe pain on the inside.

Thomas considers her faith very important to her, and she believes that everything happens for a reason.

“God gave me that experience for a reason,” Thomas said. “It’s a part of the plan, and I have to be thankful for and blessed for that. At the same time, things happen, and it was another test. In the moment, I can either make it or let it make me. I’m going to make it.”

During the match, though, Thomas didn’t need a prognosis from a doctor. She began processing what the injury meant for the bigger picture and started accepting that her high school softball career was over.

To cope with that, Thomas said she told herself she had to win the state wrestling championship if her last opportunity to play Federal Way softball had just ended.

“I had a choice,” Thomas said. “I could define the moment or let it define me. It became so important to me to win the wrestling title because of my leg. I knew it was in bad shape, and because I knew, I told myself I had no choice but to win if I have to give up softball this year.”

Thomas now walks in a full walking boot. She cannot use crutches because of her torn labrum.

The challenge, aside from making it to each class on time, is working through her physical therapy, which gets underway this week and for the next two weeks for Thomas.

Doctors told Thomas, if all goes well through the recovery process, she’ll be able to get back on the softball field in August, but the club softball season ends in July. The torn labrum is the biggest hurdle. Thomas was told it will take far longer than the knee to heal.

“My goal is to make myself as strong as I can,” Thomas said, again fighting back tears.

The Eagles captain won’t stay away from the softball field this spring, though. She hopes Federal Way softball coach Carl Peters allows her to be a team manager so she can still be with her teammates.

As the captain, Thomas said she can’t and won’t give up on the team this year. Thomas lights up when talking about the new Federal Way freshman players she’ll get to mentor this season.

Thomas may not be able to mentor them on the field in 2017, but Thomas’ champion spirit that won her the state wrestling championship will be more than enough.

“I’m excited to learn and teach things about the game that I wouldn’t have before,” Thomas said. “I can’t wait to just be involved with this team.”

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