Tualatin junior overcomes stabbing, surgery to win school’s first wrestling title

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In the last two yearsTualatin's Logan Sunnell has had two knee surgeries and been stabbed in the chest, but none of that stopped him from winning Tualatin High School's first-ever wrestling state title. Adam Littman/Tualatin Life
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Where would Logan Sunnell be without wrestling?

His drive for greatness on the wrestling mat has kept him going after multiple knee surgeries, and it was a wrestling technique – a mat return – that helped him take down his assailant after he was stabbed in the chest nearly two years ago. 

The Tualatin junior said he didn’t even realize he was stabbed at first. He didn’t feel a thing. He just got up off the person who attacked him, saw a bunch of blood pouring out of his chest, and heard the group of friends he was with start freaking out. 

“I was the only who stayed calm, which I think I can contribute to wrestling,” he said. “It has taught me how to keep my cool in pretty heated situations.”

Things weren’t as heated on Feb. 24 for Sunnell, as he calmly and cooly cruised to a 12-5 decision in the 190-pound Oregon state championship match. 

“The day before the tournament, I felt the most ready I’ve ever felt for anything,” he said. “I felt like I was about to go ace a test and that’s what I did.”

The state title win capped off a hectic last two years for Sunnell. He’s the first wrestler from Tualatin High School to win a state championship.

“Nobody has faced the adversity he has faced,” Tualatin wrestling coach Matt Hamilton said. “Nobody has worked as hard to get to where he is at.”

Stabbed in the park

It was toward the end of Sunnell’s freshman year and he was dating a girl. A student from another high school was interested in that girl and didn’t like Sunnell because of his relationship with that girl. That other student said he’d fight Sunnell if they ever crossed paths. 

Sunnell was with friends at Cook Park in Tigard one day and that other student was there. Sunnell’s friends said it would be funny if while walking by the other student, Sunnell asked why he didn’t fight him yet, so he did. The other student didn’t say anything, so Sunnell and his friends kept on walking. 

“He comes in this forest riding this bike and he hops off the bike,” Sunnell said. “He’s holding his hand super close to his hip. He’s holding a knife in his hand, but I didn’t see the knife. She saw the knife and kind of pushed him away and then he pushed her back, stabbed me in the chest, and after that I rushed him.”

Sunnell said he was stabbed in the chest with a fishing knife. He and his friends walked back to the park where they saw an adult there who helped him. A friend wrapped something around his chest and another called an ambulance, although Sunnell said some of it is hard to remember because he was in and out of consciousness. 

In the hospital, Sunnell had a chest tube placed in his lung to keep it inflated. He stayed there about three days. About three weeks after that, he was back at football practice. 

The hospital gave him a device to help build back up his lung capacity that he said was hard to do. He also started getting back to his regular regime of cardio training with running, boxing, jumping jacks, and burpees. He said it took him about two and a half months to get back to his regular mile time of six minutes. 

“My lungs have never been the same since,” he said. “I just haven’t been able to breathe as well.” 

Sunnell said football was tough his sophomore season, but he really felt how far he still had to recover during that wrestling season. 

“I was just dead after every single match,” he said. “My energy was low. I was always getting headaches from how bad my lungs were. I couldn’t breathe. It definitely affected my ability to finish matches in the third round.”

Even recovering from the stabbing, Sunnell finished third in the state tournament that year. Another setback was just a few days away, however.

Knee surgeries

Three days after the high school season finished, Sunnell was training for the freestyle and Greco-Roman club season when he hurt his knee. He had a bucket handle meniscus tear, which lead to meniscus repair surgery. 

Sunnell was out three to four months after the surgery. He came back in time for football, but messed up his knee a bit during the season. Early in his junior wrestling season, he hurt that knee even more. 

In late January, he had another knee surgery, this one removing all the cartilage from that knee. A week later he started doing some light drills, and a week after that, he was back to practice gearing up for the state tournament. 

“They said I could try to ease back into wrestling, but obviously I couldn’t ease back into it,” Sunnell said. “I had to do all I could to get that state championship. I had to practice hard those last few weeks.”

Hamilton said Sunnell’s calm demeanor and competitive spirit helped him bounce back from his injury in time to win the state title. 

“He just refused to let that be something that is going to hold him back,” he said. “He deserved it. Nobody was going to take this from him.”

Family affair

Another thing that helped Sunnell come back so quickly from his injury was his family. His dad, Gabe Sunnell, is coach of the Tualatin Wolfpack youth club, and has coached Logan since he was in fifth grade. 

“He’s really been my only drill partner for the last two years,” Logan Sunnell said. “I owe everything to him.”

Sunnell’s dad finished third in the state tournament as a wrestler back when he was at Seaside High School, and his uncle, Toby Sunnell, won a state title in 1999. Sunnell said his uncle was the first state champion from Seaside High School. 

Logan Sunnell thinks he might not be the last state champion from the Sunnell family. He is the oldest of five boys. Anthony Sunnell, the youngest of the five, recently won a state title in the 71-pound weight class for the 14 and under division at the Oregon Wrestling Association Kids Folkstyle State Championships.

He also said Hamilton has been a great coach and mentor for him since he got to high school.

“He’s helped me through a lot, and he’s been there every step of the way,” Sunnell said. “He went to court with us after the stabbing. He’s part of the family.”

Sunnell said he was thrilled for his coach to bring him a state title, and his goal is to do so again next year. Sunnell wants to be a two-time state champ and get to 100 career wins; he’s at around 80 right now. He also wants to get a district title as a team. 

If Sunnell has shown one thing these last few years, it’s that he’s willing to work through any setback to get to where he wants to go. 

“I look at my goal and see what I need to do to get there,” he said. “That’s what takes over everything. When I have a setback, I just remember my goal and what I need to get there.”

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