Callahan overcame injury his senior year
Evan Callahan always had the physical dimensions to suit up on the football field, but it wasn’t until his senior year that Callahan actually decided to come out and play for the Patriots.
In what started out as a 3-4 season for Freedom, turned into a joy ride of five straight wins to the District 11 6A championship before ultimately falling to Parkland 24-14 on November 18.
The pain of losing a title contest never leaves, but for Callahan, the memories of a night that altered his senior year will also last forever.
In the first half against Parkland, Callahan, a defensive end, heard a loud snap in his knee. The pain was immediate and his future took a sudden hit.
A month earlier, Callahan had committed to wrestle at Harvard. The winter sports season was right around the corner and he suddenly had to deal with the news that he suffered a torn LCL (Lateral Collateral Ligament) and a torn patellar tendon in his right knee.
The sadness of that night on J. Birney Crum’s turf will never leave Callahan, but what he may have learned about himself might turn out to be more beneficial than any play on the sports field for the outgoing Freedom senior.
Callahan would go on and win his second straight District 11 3A and Northeast Regional 3A wrestling titles last winter and finish off his senior season on the baseball diamond in the spring.
His dedication to Freedom and the community, along with his perseverance and success as a three-sport athlete this season makes him Freedom’s Male Athlete of the Year.
“When I initially got injured, I first thought about the team and how it was going to affect them,” said Callahan. “Then it kind of sunk in that this wasn’t going to be an injury I was just going to get over. Before I got diagnosed, I pretty much knew it was going to be tough.
“I still get sad feelings when I think back to that night, but I look back at my football experience and enjoyed it. Being able to play for coach [Jason] Roeder and experience that and playing in front of the community was something I’ll never forget.”
To say that Callahan’s senior year was more than challenging would be an understatement. Following the loss to Parkland, Callahan had to deal with nearly a three month rehabilitation process on his knee, which still wasn’t fully healed by the time the individual postseason came around.
With the confidence in his knee still on the fence, Callahan entered his final District 11 tournament with a sense of hesitation about his ability to capture his second straight gold medal.
Those doubts began to slip away when he posted falls in his opening two bouts. He then posted a convincing a 6-1 decision over Greg Bensley in the semifinals before reversing a February loss to Parkland’s Nate Feyrer to win 3-2 in the finals.
“That was the first time that I felt like I was back,” Callahan said. “Coming back to wrestling, I really didn’t feel confident like I did my junior year. It was tough because I wasn’t sure if my body was ready to compete. I couldn’t use my go-to series and wasn’t able to shoot with my right leg. I had to switch stances and it forced me to improvise.
“Winning a district title was definitely the best thing from my senior year. That was my one moment where I won something and I came back from the injury to win too.”
Callahan would go on and win regionals over Feyrer as well, but it came with a price. He hurt his knee further in the semifinal round, which eventually led him to medically default at the PIAA state tournament in Hershey five days later.
Pulling the plug on his senior season was a difficult decision, but one that he felt was the best for his future.
“That was one of the toughest decisions I had to make in my life,” he said after concluding his senior year with a 12-3 record. “When you go out to states, you feel like you have to represent your whole community, but I realized that you have to make a smarter decision for the long run. I knew in the future I would be able to work hard and make everyone prouder in a different way.”
Callahan still had one more run in his senior year with baseball season already underway as he was in Hershey.
His success in wrestling overlapped baseball tryouts, but reinjuring his knee pushed him back further.
Still, he played in 20 games at first base last spring and batted .351 for the season with 11 RBI, helping the team to a 16-7 record, following a quarterfinal loss to Pocono Mountain East in the District 11 6A tournament.
While his run at Freedom may be over, his new chapter at Harvard is a fresh start to focus on his academic future, as well as a member of the wrestling team.
While Callahan may have had a challenging senior year, he left his mark on every team he competed with and with the Freedom community.
Even though things didn’t go as planned, he knows a better plan still lies ahead.
“Sometimes you just need to connect the dots,” he said, “and although things don’t seem like they’re working out, eventually the dots will connect themselves.”