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Scrap leaves OSU freshman with career-ending injury
by: COURTESY OF DAVID ROSENFIELD, After being hit on the side of the head and ear, former Oregon State freshman wrestler Cameron Rosenfield had surgery to repair a ruptured eardrum. Doctors say he could regain a maximum 40 percent of hearing in the ear.

CORVALLIS - Things were going pretty smoothly for Cameron Rosenfield until the afternoon of April 12.

The freshman wrestler from Madras High had enjoyed his transitional first year at Oregon State, redshirting with a chance to climb the ladder of success.

Then came the incident and its aftermath, that in the words of Rosenfield, 'has rocked my world.'

Rosenfield's wrestling career probably is over after suffering a severe head injury during an alleged fracas with another wrestler, Nick Simmons, on the FieldTurf at Reser Stadium.

Rosenfield, 19, has total hearing loss in his left ear after allegedly being punched by Simmons in a beef during a game of Ultimate Frisbee. The blow caused an 85 percent perforation of Rosenfield's eardrum, severed its central nerve and left him with damage to his equilibrium and taste buds.

The injury caused Rosenfield to drop out of school for spring term and return to Madras. Following May 15 surgery to repair the eardrum, Rosenfield has made plans to transfer to the College of Southern Maryland for the 2008-09 academic year.

If not for the injury, 'I would still be wrestling at Oregon State,' Rosenfield says. 'I've dedicated my life to the sport. It's been my passion since I was 4 years old. I could have wrestled the next four years at the place I loved. I loved everything about Oregon State wrestling. Now it's just taken away from me.'

Rosenfield was a nonscholarship wrestler but signed a letter of intent after a stellar career at Madras, where he set a school record for most victories in a season and finished second in state as a junior and fifth as a senior at 135 pounds. He was wrestling at 141 at Oregon State.

Simmons, 25, had been in Corvallis training for the Olympic Games after a stellar career at Michigan State. Simmons, who represents the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has been affiliated with the Orange Crush Wrestling Club of Corvallis and practiced with Oregon State wrestlers last season. A four-time All-American, he was seeded fifth at 121 pounds going into the Olympic trials June 12 through June 15 at Las Vegas.

Rosenfield and Simmons were among about 30 wrestlers - some of them high school recruits - congregated at Reser Stadium on April 12 for an informal practice session that amounted to a pickup game of Ultimate Frisbee. Rosenfield says things got a little rough.

'We were all tackling each other,' Rosenfield says. At one point, 'Nick took out the legs of me and another kid. I grabbed his leg to stop him and knocked his sunglasses off. He turned around and freaked out on me. 'Do you want to get punched in the head?' he said. I said, 'You've got to be kidding.' I turned around to keep playing, and he cold-cocked me on the side of head.'

Damage unknown at first

Rosenfield eventually got to his feet and, unaware of the extent of the damage, continued to play for a half-hour until the game was over. As he walked to his dormitory, Rosenfield noticed he was bleeding from the ear. 'My head was swelling, and I started to get the worst headache I've ever had,' he says.

Rosenfield called his mother, Robyn, a pharmacist with experience as a nurse. She told him to go to an urgent-care facility.

The attending physician set up Rosenfield with an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist.

The specialist said, ' 'Your ear is pretty badly ruptured, and the cochlea and nerve are damaged, too,' ' Rosenfield said.

Rosenfield originally thought he would just stay away from wrestling for a few weeks and everything would get better. It didn't. He said he has dealt with periodic nausea and constant tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and equilibrium loss, has had difficulty sleeping and concentrating and wound up dropping all 16 credits for spring term to return to Madras.

On May 15 in Bend, Dr. David Woods performed surgery on Rosenfield to repair the eardrum. Recovery comes over a six-month period, and Woods told Rosenfield there is a chance to regain a maximum 40 percent hearing in the ear.

Due to the injury, Rosenfield won't return to the job he has held at Ace Hardware in Madras the past two summers. Woods has advised him to avoid swimming, heavy lifting or major activity.

'I have to be really careful,' Rosenfield says. 'I can't even mow the lawn. It's going to be a crappy summer.'

Little legal recourse

Rosenfield and his parents, David and Robyn, twice consulted an attorney about the possibility of a lawsuit.

'His opinion was neither the school nor Orange Crush Wrestling Club are liable, because (Simmons) did this intentionally,' Robyn Rosenfield says. 'Had it been an accident, there could have been liability, but he intentionally punched Cameron.'

The Rosenfields could have filed against Simmons, but they say his financial wherewithal is limited, and the Rosenfields' health insurance would have reaped much of the potential award to pay for costs. They figure medical bills will exceed $20,000, of which insurance will cover 80 percent.

'We wouldn't be suing to get rich; we just wanted to cover our share of the bills,' Robyn Rosenfield says. 'We're going to be out of pocket more than $5,000 plus attorney's fees, and Cameron has a permanent disability.'

Through Bradley Simmons - who says he is acting as his brother's manager through the wrestler's pursuit of an Olympic berth - Nick Simmons declined to discuss the situation.

'Nick doesn't have any comment to make on that topic,' Bradley Simmons says. 'He is only giving interviews about the (Olympic) trials. He has nothing to say about that.'

David Rosenfield, a mill worker, says Nick Simmons told him recently that he was being paid living expenses by the Orange Crush Wrestling Club. Attempts to contact John Rich - whose phone number is on the home page of the club's Web site - were unsuccessful.

Oregon State wrestling coach Jim Zalesky and assistants Troy Steiner and Kevin Roberts are mentioned on Orange Crush's home page. Cameron Rosenfield says Zalesky and Roberts were standing on the sidelines at Reser Stadium when the April 12 altercation occurred.

'They had to have seen it,' Rosenfield says. 'After it happened, I looked around, and the coaches were standing right there. They didn't do anything.'

'I didn't see it,' says Zalesky, who just completed his second year at OSU after nine years as head coach at Iowa.

Zalesky was at Iowa when Simmons was at Michigan State, also a Big Ten school.

'I knew him there and in high school,' Zalesky says. 'Sometimes you look for guys to come in and train and try to make an Olympic team. You want to have that kind of program. He's been training with our club.'

Of his understanding of the alleged altercation, 'It's just one of those things,' Zalesky says. 'They were playing a game. Cameron hit (Simmons') knee out. Nick … thought he did it on purpose. He kind of gave (Rosenfield) a slap aside the head, and he kind of got an ear problem there. It was one of those things that just happened, like you're in a room wrestling and you hit a knee or something. … It was just retaliation. That's what a wrestler is used to a lot of times.'

David Rosenfield says he had a phone conversation with Zalesky.

'He showed zero compassion,' Rosenfield says. 'I asked him if he was aware of the extent of the injury, and he at first said no. When I explained it and told him about the surgery, he said he knew (Cameron's) ear was hurting. I asked who would be responsible for this, and he said, 'Nick Simmons.' '

No word from coaches

Other than that, the OSU coaches who had been in constant contact with the Rosenfields through the recruiting process haven't spoken with the family since April 12.

'None of the coaches have called or checked to see how I'm doing,' Cameron Rosenfield says. 'All of a sudden, it's like I'm erased from the equation. It feels like betrayal. I had so much going for me, loved wrestling at Oregon State so much, and this happens, and they've just dropped me. I don't understand how they could do that. It hurts. I put so much trust and faith in them.'

Through the rehab process, Rosenfield has decided to pursue an education in the radiology program at the College of Southern Maryland. He will live with an aunt. He hopes to soon gain medical clearance to fly there - he has been restricted thus far for concern that it would do further damage to the eardrum. His wrestling career is probably over; Woods advised him that another blow to the head could do further injury.

'I weighed the risks, and you can't mess around with your brain,' Rosenfield says. 'I have a whole life to live.'

Rosenfield has the Oregon junior national wrestling team emblem tattooed on the back of his calf.

'Wrestling has been my No. 1 passion,' he says. 'It's been a big thing with my family. I've learned so many life lessons through wrestling - being competitive, getting through hard times. I had so many years of wrestling ahead of me. Now it's gone.'

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