Oak Creek wrestling coach battles bacterial meningitis

Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-15 23:35:25-05

Terry Nachtigall has been coaching wrestling at Oak Creek High School for 21 years.

“It's just the greatest sport,” said the Knights assistant wrestling coach. “It teaches you so much and you learn so much about yourself through this sport.”

And that was tested one year ago.

“I started feeling really sick like flu, nausea, neck hurt, aches, pain,” he recalled. “So I just said to my wife, 'I'm going to bed.'”

Nachtigall woke up three days later. After having a seizure, he wound up in the Intensive Care Unit with bacterial meningitis.

“They don't know how it got into the bloodstream, but once it did, it goes right to the spinal cord, the brain stem and the meninges that cover the brain,” he explained.

And if that's not enough, four years prior, Nachtigall had a tennis ball sized tumor removed from his brain.

“So that kind of complicated things a little bit.”

But if anyone knew the fight in Terry, it was his wrestlers.

“It's just his personality,” said senior wrestler Enrique Acevedo. “It's just the way he is. He always fights and I mean he's a wrestler, and all wrestlers have that same kind of mentality because if you don't fight in wrestling, you're not going to make it.”

“My wife's like, ‘I brought you some slippers so when you want to walk,’” Nachtigall recounted of his time in the hospital. “And in the video right away I'm like, 'I want to walk.' Just getting out of the bed, not letting anything hold you back and when the chips are down, you get up and keep going. That's kind of what this sport teaches you.”

About six months later, Nachtigall started to feel like himself again. These days, the 48-year-old is back at practice, up against his wrestlers. To them, he's the same old ‘Coach Nach.’

“If you hesitate against him, he'll kick your butt,” Acevedo said with a smile about wrestling his coach.

“I'm not too shy to say that they throw me around sometimes,” Nachtigall said with a laugh.

“I kind of appreciate having him around now more than I did before because I realized he was almost gone,” said senior wrestler Brycen Hakes.

Nachtigall takes anti-seizure medication every day, and does sinus washes often. He has no peripheral vision in his left eye and has memory loss, but all he needs is wrestling.

“I mean this is the sport I grew up with,” he said. “It's the sport I love. I try to give back to the sport that gave me so much.”

The Knights are ranked third in the state, the highest they've ever been ranked. And just like their coach, they're fighting their way to the top.