LAWRENCEVILLE -- The two-time state champion wrestler struck by a hit-and-run driver over the weekend is "slowly getting better," as doctors point to a possible six-week hospital stay.
Tsvetomir Petrushev, a 17-year-old junior at Peachtree Ridge High School, was walking home from his girlfriend's house early Sunday morning when the unidentified driver struck him near the Norcross intersection of Williams Road and Tug Drive. The teen known as "Tsvet" was rushed to Gwinnett Medical Center, where wrestling coach Danny Sinnott said he was originally given a 50-50 chance of surviving.
That prognosis seemed significantly better on Tuesday, as Petrushev -- with a chipped pelvis, broken jaw and severe head trauma -- was drinking water and eating ice chips and applesauce. Despite his jaw being wired shut he was trying to speak.
"I've been there most of the last three days," Sinnott said Tuesday afternoon. "He's doing better than he did (Monday), he's more responsive than ever ... From what I hear the brain swelling is under control for the most part."
At age 6, Petrushev and his family moved to the United States from their native Bulgaria, seeking opportunity and education. Tsvet eventually found his niche in wrestling, taking kids state championships as a seventh- and eight-grader. He continued his title run as a freshman at Peachtree Ridge, winning the 152-pound Class AAAAA state championship.
In February, he punctuated a perfect 30-0 sophomore season with another state title.
Few specifics have been released about the accident that threatened Petrushev's life, and, because of his condition, he has been unable to provide many details to police.
Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter said Tuesday that investigators were following several leads in the open case. Anyone with information is asked to call 770-513-5300.
"We are not going to release any information at this time as it may compromise the investigation," Ritter said.
Sinnott said more than 70 people have visited Petrushev in the hospital, including "wrestling folks" from all over the county and state. A Caring Bridge website set up to provide updates was signed by wrestling teams and coaches from Union Grove, Forest Park and south Georgia.
Sinnott has often called Petrushev "one of the toughest kids I've ever coached." It's that spirit that friends and family hope will help the young wrestler through the biggest fight of his life.
"There's been moments where I've been tired and wanted to give up in a match and quit," Petrushev told the Daily Post in January, en route to his second state championship. "But that's not how I've been raised. My family, we never quit."