COLUMBIA — Tyler Griggs landed awkwardly on his right hand, and he instantly knew something was wrong.
A few minutes remained in the semifinal of the CYC/Guelker tournament in St. Louis, and the Rock Bridge High School soccer team led Francis Howell Central 1-0. His team was closing in on a win, but Griggs, a senior midfielder for the Bruins, refused to leave the game before it ended.
Despite partial ligament tears in his thumb, Griggs was back on the field the following night in the tournament's championship game. Rock Bridge lost 2-0 to O’Fallon (Ill.), but Griggs proved his toughness to teammates and coaches that night, Bruins coach Kyle Austin said.
Since the loss to O’Fallon, Griggs has worn a splint on his hand during practices and games.
“It’s kind of been an annoyance in the game," he said. "Like, if I need to bounce back up off the ground or bodying up with someone.”
Griggs said that he anticipates only having to wear the splint for another week and a half before the ligaments should be fully healed.
Just as that injury nears full recovery, another one happened against Helias High School on Wednesday.
Early on in the game, Griggs took a knee to the thigh while fighting for a ball in the air with a Helias player.
“I just thought it was a dead leg at first and not a big deal,” Griggs said. “Then I tried running up and down the sideline, and it kinda like seized up really tight.”
Griggs said athletic trainer Greg Nagel called the injury a deep muscle bruise. He said Nagel advised him to ice his thigh and ride an athletic bike in an attempt to recover quickly from the injury.
Austin thinks Griggs should be able to play Friday in the team’s opener of the Kickapoo Chiefs Shootout in Springfield against Kearney.
“It would be an immense loss," if Griggs is unable to play, Austin said. “He is kind of the catalyst that lets us do a lot of things,” he said. “He’s got the kind of skill set you just can’t replace.”
Griggs ranks third on the team in both goals, with 5, and assists, with 6.
Four of his five goals have come in games Rock Bridge eventually won by one goal. Last week, he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Hickman.
“I don’t think he knows how to go soft or how to go less than a hundred percent,” Austin said. “I think it’s in his DNA.
“He is one of those kids that does a good job just leading by example,” Austin said. “Through drills, through everything we do, he’s a leader in those both vocally and just with the way he plays the game.”
Junior midfielder Thomas McCarney agreed.
“He is kind of an inspiration to me in a way because I’m always trying to do whatever he’s doing, trying to work as hard as he’s working,” McCarney said. “He works nonstop.”
McCarney said Griggs sets the bar for him personally and is a vocal motivator on the field if someone isn’t working hard enough.
“I think Ty Griggs is the heart and soul of our team this year,” Austin said. “I think they have just unbelievable respect and admiration for him.”