NJ teen wrestler brought back to life after his heart stops during match
TOMS RIVER — A tragic situation turned into a miraculous recovery on Wednesday night thanks to the quick actions that saved the life of an Ocean County high school wrestler.
During a tri-match between Toms River North, Donovan Catholic and Lakewood, Donovan Catholic junior 220-pounder Brandon Gonzalez collapsed and flatlined on the mat and had to be revived by Toms River North assistant wrestling coach Josh Huber, Lakewood athletic trainer Patricia Halpin, Donovan Catholic head coach Steve Glawson and two EMTs that happened to be in the crowd.
After winning by fall in the 220-pound match, the referee went to separate the two wrestlers as Gonzalez was still laying on top of his opponent. As they went to do so, he rolled over and was in seizure. That's when everybody sprung into action.
“I just remember standing up to shake the other kid’s hand and he wouldn’t get off our kid, and I thought, ‘that’s weird,” said Huber, who is a four-year veteran lifeguard with Jenkinson’s Beach Patrol in Point Pleasant Beach.
“He rolled over and he was in straight seizure. The coach from Donovan ran over to keep him from biting his tongue and from there he kind of calmed down and stopped seizing and we were monitoring him.”
The harrowing situation was far from over, however.
“All of the sudden he went straight into shock with no heart beat and no breathing,” Huber said. “I went right into chest compressions, 30 to 60, and then someone else took over and one of the dads went to grab the (athletic director).
A defibrillator on hand and in good working condition was critical to saving Gonzalez’s life.
“I actually was walking in and it happened to catch my eye,” Huber said. “It was brand new.”
"We hooked up the defibrillator and shocked him, then went back into chest compressions, and he regained consciousness.”
Miraculously, Gonzalez went from having no pulse and being effectively dead on the mat to standing up and getting onto the stretcher fully conscious.
“He was really out of it but then he was trying to stand up and was fully solid,” Huber said.
Gonzalez was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune after being revived. The remainder of the match was cancelled.
"Obviously seeing that was traumatic for everyone, so wrestling was stopped at that point," said Donovan Catholic athletic director Joe Gomulka.
Gonzalez remains hospitalized but is doing well, all things considered.
“He’s doing OK now," Gomulka said. “He talked to the coach (Glawson) last night. They kept him in the hospital to figure out what’s wrong.”
Thankfully, Glawson is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Toms River, while Huber is a lifeguard with extensive CPR training. The two people in the crowd who assisted have been identified as Sergio Borda, a firefighter, and Joseph Oleske, a local dentist whose son wrestlers for Toms River North.
Huber, who is originally from New Hampshire and wrestled collegiately at Plymouth State University, was also previously an assistant at Brick Memorial. He credits his lifeguard training with the ability to take quick action.
“You’re never off duty, per se. You just hope you can catch it and be there to your job,” Huber said. “You hope somebody would do that for you or your family members, spring into action and help them.”
Wrestling editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders.