Athlete: K’Den McMullin

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by Tyler Francke, Active Media Contributing Writer

K’Den McMullin’s senior year at Canby High School, it’s safe to say, has not gone quite the way he had planned.
It started off great. McMullin was selected by coaches and his fellow players to be one of the senior captains of the reinvigorated Canby Cougar football team.
McMullin, a running back, said the community excitement surrounding the team and the morale among the players was at an all-time high under new head coach Jimmy Joyce and his staff. Then, disaster struck on homecoming night last October against visiting Lakeridge.
It was a close game, and McMullin got the hand-off from quarterback Mikey Gibson on a critical fourth-down situation. It was his job to keep the drive alive, and he did. But the cost was pretty steep.
“When I dove, I just felt this really sharp pain on the top of my foot,” he recalled. “I had gotten the first down, so I was feeling really good. My adrenaline was super-high. I thought I had gotten cleated or something I could just walk it off. But I couldn’t walk at all. I tried to get up and it wasn’t working.”
He knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know how serious it was. He never suspected the truth: He had broken his foot. Sadly, his senior football season was over.
“It was something I never imagined,” he admitted. “It was tough on me. It hurt for a while. It was something I had never expected in a million years.”
He was told his recovery and rehab would take four to six weeks. Not ideal, but OK, he thought. He would still have plenty of time to get in shape for what he was really looking forward to: Wrestling season.
Then, he got more bad news.

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“We went in for just an ordinary check-up with a new surgeon, and he came in with news we weren’t expecting at all,” he said. “He said the bones were starting to shift in my foot because of the injury, and the only way to fix it was immediate surgery.”
Expected recovery time for the surgery? Three months, which would have put him past wrestling season entirely.
“We were shocked,” McMullin said. “It felt like more bad news on top of bad news. I was in a really tough place at the time.”
As it turned out, and much to his delight, his recovery progressed a little faster than his doctors anticipated.
“During the time that I had to be in the boot, I tried to stay pretty active,” McMullin recalled, elaborating that he did pull-ups, mobility exercises and stretches as much as he could. “I held onto that slim chance that maybe I could be back in time for districts.”
Slim chance or not, that’s exactly what happened. He got clearance to get out of the walking boot in mid-January, with the Three Rivers League District championships still a few weeks away.
“I started off just walking, as weird as that sounds,” McMullin said in describing how he eased back into the wrestling season.”I would walk really slowly and carefully, just trying to get the muscles and the bones back working in the proper ways. I had to take it really slow.”
When he did suit up for his first wrestling tournament on Jan. 23, his uniform included more than the usual singlet. His injured foot was wrapped and he wore three pairs of socks as extra cushion.

“It was definitely not the most comfortable or ideal situation, but it seemed to work OK,” he said. “But I was pretty nervous, pretty scared about my foot. I didn’t think I was going to be able to wrestle the way I wanted to wrestle.”
But mentality matters in sports, and especially in one-on-one sports like wrestling, and McMullin was determined to push through the pain and give his senior wrestling season all that he could. He won that first match back at Canby High School, and by the time districts rolled around, he was ranked second in his weight class.
He battled through the lower rounds and made it to the finals against Cole Brink, a junior from — ironically — Lakeridge, and the No. 1 seed, with the district title on the line.
“My big goal, from the year prior was to be a district champion,” McMullin said. “Even though I had a mishap — the injury — the goals remained the same. I was just glad I was there and able to wrestle.”
Brink is a talented grappler, with a very strong upper body. It wasn’t by accident that he was ranked No. 1 in the 138-pound weight class going into districts. But McMullin had faced him twice before — and beaten him once — so he had some confidence going into the match.
McMullin trailed Brink 4-0 late into the second period before he was able to turn a cradle into a pin with just a few seconds remaining.
Once thought to have lost his wrestling season before it even began, K’Den McMullin was named Three Rivers League champion.
“It was a surreal moment.,” McMullin said. “I honestly wasn’t expecting it.”
McMullin went on to wrestle in the state championships at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. He planned to spend the spring season on the freestyle team for the West Linn Mat Club.
After graduation, he hopes to attend Pacific University in Forest Grove and wrestle for the Boxers. 