Depression. Panic attacks. A car accident that shattered every bone in his face.
All of those melt away for Mountain View senior Antony Mello when he steps on the mat.
The Mavericks’ 106-pound senior wrestler cruised through the first three rounds of the Rollie Lane Invitational on Friday, advancing to the quarterfinals, which kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa.
Compared to the battles he fought as a child, Friday was nothing.
“I’ve learned through all the struggles the harder you push, the harder you work ... the more I feel like I get away from it,” Mello said.
His battles began at 5 years old, when a truck plowed into the van he, his father and two sisters sat in while stopped at a red light on Broadway in Boise. The accident collapsed his father’s seat, and his head head smashed into Antony’s face.
“His eye sockets, his nose, his whole jaw was so completely crushed they literally had to piece it together like a puzzle,” said Will Mello, the father. “They not only had to wire the whole jaw together, they had to use elastic and reset his nasal cavity.”
Antony spent five and a half hours in reconstructive surgery and more than a week in ICU. Will said the accident could have been much worse.
Antony, undersized for his age until adding weight as a junior, wanted to ride in the car seat of his 2-year-old sister, who Will said wouldn’t have survived in her normal seat. And before Will took off, Antony reminded him to put on a seatbelt.
“I literally hold him accountable for saving three lives that day — mine, his and his baby sister’s,” Will said.
A metal plate remains in the roof of his mouth. After the physical injuries healed, the crash spawned panic attacks, night terrors and separation anxiety for years. Antony said until the fourth grade, he couldn’t leave the house or get dropped off at school without an attack.
“I still get panic attacks,” he said, “but I can control it now.”
His parents’ divorce in seventh grade brought on a bout of depression. That was the same year he discovered wrestling.
“It’s played a big role because I went through a lot of dramatic stuff,” Antony said. “Being separated from my parents, that started to get to me again. Wrestling has always been my outlet.
“In practice, I’m tired and stuff, but I’ve learned to keep my stresses at home and keep pushing through it. The more I grind, I feel like the better I get.”
The work has paid off on the mat, where Mello started as a 72-pound freshman. He brings a 23-4 record this season into Saturday’s quarterfinals.
He faces top-seeded Dante Carreno of Caldwell as he tries to improve on last year’s sixth-place finish at Rollie Lane.
“Doing well here would be awesome,” Antony said. “I really want to win it.”
ROLLIE TEAM RACE
Defending champion Post Falls leads with 101 points going into the final day, followed by Spokane’s Central Valley (95), Oregon’s Crook County (93.5) and Caldwell (92.5).
“We’ve lost maybe one (wrestler) we shouldn’t have, but we’re right where I’d thought we’d be,” Caldwell coach Jeff Kloetzer said.