The Pulse With Andy Hamilton

The Pulse: Is Brandon Cannon The Comeback Wrestler Of The Year?

The Pulse: Is Brandon Cannon The Comeback Wrestler Of The Year?

A rare, aggressive tumor left Brandon Cannon unable to walk several months ago. On Saturday, the Colorado prep made a triumphant return to the mat.

Nov 4, 2021 by Andy Hamilton
The Pulse: Is Brandon Cannon The Comeback Wrestler Of The Year?

If you weren’t plugged into the Brian Keck Memorial Preseason Nationals, you might’ve missed one of the best wrestling stories of the year. 

It happened Saturday inside Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, where Brandon Cannon climbed to the top step of the podium after wrestling in his first tournament in nearly 22 months. 

Cannon, one of the nation’s top high school lightweights, began feeling some discomfort in his lower back in July of 2020. At first, he thought he might have pulled a muscle, but the pain intensified later in the summer at a camp in Ohio. 

“All throughout that camp it started getting a lot worse,” he said, “and I had no idea what was going on.” 

That August, doctors discovered the root of the problem — an Aneurysmal Bone Cyst, a rare, aggressive tumor. The condition, found in less than one in 100,000 people per year, can cause bone destruction and lead to nerve damage and paralysis. 

Cannon began undergoing sclerotherapy — a series of treatments in which a solution is injected into the tumor to kill the tumor cells and regenerate bone — at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

At one point, Cannon couldn’t walk, he was losing nerve function and he dropped more than 20 pounds. Keep in mind he wrestled the previous season at 106. 

“He doesn’t fully understand what he was up against,” his father, Jacob, said. 

The treatments seemed to work at first. But Brandon experienced a setback in March. Doctors thought they might have to explore other options, including radiation. 

Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. Another appointment later in the spring confirmed that the original treatment plan was working. 

In June, Brandon was cleared to start lifting weights again. 

“I felt like if he could wrestle again — I knew he was a good wrestler — but I was thinking he’d get back next year and this year would be a physical rehab year,” Jacob said. “I was expecting him to do yoga and other stuff and ease back into it. But he’s very driven and he’s just exceeding anything I could’ve imagined. The best part of the whole thing is it’s 100-percent him. It’s his sport, it’s what he wants to do. It’s really nice he’s got something he loves. He lost it and now he can do it again.”

Wrestling isn’t just something Brandon Cannon loves. He excels at it. He competed for national power Wyoming Seminary as a freshman in 2019. That season, Cannon captured the Beast of the East title in a 106-pound bracket that included nationally-ranked hammers such as Cadet World champ Marc-Anthony McGowan, Tyler Vazquez and Mac Church.   

He’s barely competed since. Last weekend was his first tournament since January of 2020. 

“It was kind of my first weight-cut ever and so it was a little bit difficult that week getting down,” said Brandon, a junior at Ponderosa High School just outside Denver. “Getting ready to wrestle after that, I was excited. I wasn’t nervous or anything. Since I haven’t wrestled in a long time, I wasn’t putting any expectations on myself or anything, just kind of go out there and wrestle my best and not really worry about the results but just wrestle as hard as I can. 

“Being out for so long kind of showed me how much I like the sport. Even though I couldn’t wrestle, I just really wanted to wrestle and it was hard not being able to do that. Even though I wasn’t competing, all I wanted to do was go practice or something because I just really enjoy wrestling.” 

He reeled off six consecutive victories over the course of the two-day tournament in Des Moines, registering a pair of major decisions and a fall on his way to the 120-pound title. He notched four wins against state medalists and two against state finalists. 

Brandon also managed to make his dad get choked up. 

“When they did the parade of champions it was kind of emotional just because I was thinking back to when Brandon had some really, really dark days in the hospital and leading up to the hospital,” Jacob said. “He was there for 11 days and there were some really painful times. To think back to those times and see him smiling up on the raised mat and happy, it was a little bit overwhelming. It was pretty incredible.”