By Edie Schmierbach
---- — WASECA — In 2008, Tom Block was a member of the Mavericks wrestling team that won the National Duals, an event that featured 16 top teams from Division II when he was a student at Minnesota State University. When he was in high school, he wrestled at the state finals.
Block's challenge today is recovery from the critical injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device was detonated in southern Afghanistan Sunday.
The 27-year-old Waseca native, now a U.S. Army ranger, was stationed in the Zhari district in Kandahar Province.
Block is alert and responsive, his family was told by his nurse at the hospital in Ramstein, Germany, where his injuries are being treated. Block lost his right eye and his left eye was injured and facial bones were broken. His condition remained critical Monday morning, but it was stable, and he is to be transferred Tuesday to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. When he is back in the states, he will undergo more surgery.
Killed by the roadside bomb were four American soldiers serving with the NATO-led international force in the south of Afghanistan. It was the coalition's worst loss in a single episode since June.
The Taliban are reported to have become more active in the south as international forces scale back their operations in preparation for withdrawal by the end of 2014.
The soldier's parents are Jeff and Jody Block of Cleveland and Ruth Ann and Tim Collins of Waseca.
"Last winter when he was home on leave, he went up to visit the team," said Jeff Block. His son kept in shape by wrestling with the heavyweights. Block came out the winner in many of the matches, his father was proud to say.
Jim Makovsky, MSU wrestling coach, said Block made regular stops to visit after he was no longer a student.
"He's a likeable guy and he has a bigger than life presence," Makovsky said.
"He's still a member of the team. We are all thinking of him and his family."