BY JEFF FALK
Car crashes that claim the lives of young drivers occur way too often, and they pack enough emotional punch to rock an entire community. Seven weeks ago, Tommy Price was involved in a serious automobile accident, but was fortunate enough to live to tell about it.
As daylight was falling on Tuesday, Dec. 13, a vehicle Price was operating slammed into a tree on a Jackson Township road off Route 501, not far from Elco High School. A senior 160-pounder on the Raider wrestling team, Price was headed to Elco for his team’s season-opening match with Pine Grove.
Unresponsive, Price was air-lifted by Penn State’s Life Lion to Hershey Medical Center.
“He was just coming to the match,” said Elco head coach Chad Miller. “We got a call at a quarter to five and we were told Tom had been in an accident. (Raider teammate) Zach Layser said Tommy was in an accident and he saw Tommy was outside his truck and people were with him.
“He was by himself in his truck,” Miller continued. “He just veered off the road, but it was a straight part of the road. We went to visit him in the hospital and we didn’t know what to expect. But he was awake and responsive.”
“I actually don’t remember the accident,” said Price. “I hit a tree and walked away real lucky. There’s somebody upstairs looking out for me because there’s a lot of things that could’ve happened to me and I wouldn’t be talking to you today.”
Despite being unconscious, Price spent only one night in the hospital. The only lingering physical effects for him have been bruised ribs and concussion-like symptoms, which have since subsided.
“It’s the best case scenario when something bad like that happens and it puts a little more perspective on things,” said Price. “You know your life can end like that. It just further motivates you to go harder everyday, and not only work for yourself, but also your teammates, because you realize how precious life is.”
“He was unresponsive, but nothing was broken,” said Miller. “The only markings on his body were on his ribs. He was out of it for half an hour. That’s why they life-lioned him to Hershey.”
Price was a quick healer all-around. After taking it easy, regaining his bearings and going through some intense training, he made his senior-season debut on Jan. 4, about three weeks after the accident.
“I had been coming off a football injury before that, so I was getting in the swing of things and I was behind everyone else when that happened,” said Price. “But the mindset Coach Miller instills in us is, ‘Never back down. Never fear any challenges.’ That’s the way I looked at it. I started behind the eight-ball, but I’ve got to pick up my game each and every day to catch up with the people who have been working.
“Here at Elco, we just work harder than everybody else,” Price continued. “So that’s just what you’ve got to do. Coach Miller does a great job of getting us in shape.”
“Until he stopped having headaches, he couldn’t do anything,” said Miller. “Then when he felt better we got him on a bike for 15 minutes
“He was very fortunate, without a doubt,” continued Miller. “Without him in our lineup, we wouldn’t have gotten into the position we were in. We were all lucky. Initially, that was my biggest fear, his health. Looking back, we ddin’t know if we would have Tommy (in the lineup) at all. As a coach you start thinking, ‘What are we going to do without him’.”
Price is a wrestler to whom Raider teammates look for inspiration and emotion. Currently, he is 10-3 in one of the toughest weight classes in scholastic grappling.
“He’s 100 percent ready to wrestle,” said Miller. “He’s back a little bit because he just hasn’t wrestled enough matches. Tommy is the type of kid who would be in line to go to states if we were still in (Class) AA.
“Yeah, he’s very intense,” concluded Miller. “He’s always had leadership qualities. He’s always had a lot to say, but not in a negative way. He’s involved in a lot of things at school.”