Going for the takedown.
Going for the takedown.
Three-time NCAA all-American wrestler, Hudson Taylor and Athlete Ally are taking aim at, homophobia and sexism in sports and, working, to bring real, sportsmanship.
Any sport is about respect. Respecting yourself, your opponent and your team. And respect includes equality.
Since having his own "ah-ha "moment in 2010, Taylor has tried to bridge the gaps between athletes and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities across the country, he said
"My senior year, I wore a human rights campaign sticker on my headgear because I thought it would look cool, "said Taylor, who is now a wrestling coach at Columbia University. "I had no intention of turning it into anything... but in response, I got thousands of emails from closeted kids across country, and that was my 'ah-ha' moment."
For the past two years, Taylor has dedicated his life to being an LGBT ally, focusing his attention on athletics.
Taylor's journey into activism includes talking with his religious family about being an LGBT ally and fearing his teammates would think he was gay.
"If I can remove or flush out some of the obstacles and explain how I overcame them, then maybe they'll also take a stand, "he said.
Last year, Taylor launched Athlete Ally, a nonprofit that encourages the athletic community to respect all individuals
A hostile attitude toward the LGBT community is not unique to athletes, Taylor said, but the competitive nature of sports fuels discrimination through phrases like "don't be a fag "and "you throw like a girl."
"There's a combination of homophobia and sexism in sports, "Taylor said.
Sean Espinoza, a CU senior and member of the co-ed cheer team, said as an openly gay athlete, he relates to both sides of the issue.
During a recent football game, Espinoza said he was cheering to the student section when he heard a student yell, "tackle that faggot. "Espinoza pointed to the student and told him to "watch his mouth "through his megaphone.
While the student did not apologize, he seemed embarrassed, and Espinoza said he didn't hear another slur that day.
"I've experienced homophobia and jerks everywhere, but one thing I've appreciated is that people seem to take responsibility for themselves when it's pointed out, "Espinoza said. "Overall, my experience as an openly gay athlete at CU has been pretty positive.
Espinoza said he holds the LGBT students partially responsible for the disconnect between the gay community and athletes.
"It's up to LGBT students and allies to stand up to athletes and correct the language that's being used, "Espinoza said. "They're just as wrong for staying away from sporting events rather than going and making a statement."
Taylor said he won't be happy unless he inspires at least one student to take action.
"I'll encourage the athletes to reach out to me and help them become allies too, but at the end of day if there's no next step, my visit's a failure, "Taylor said.
Take the Athlete Ally pledge today and, promote the best of athletics by making all players feel respected on and off the field.
A wrestler is a warrior. It takes concentration, dedication and a sharp mind to compete in this sport.
GENEVA -- The Swedish wrestler who dropped his medal in protest at the Beijing Olympics was banned for two years along with his coach for "scandalous behavior, "the sport's governing body said Thursday.
The wrestling federation, known as FILA, suspended Ara Abrahamian and coach Leo Myllari and banned Sweden's wrestling federation from hosting international events for two years.
FILA also fined Abrahamian $2,600, Myllari $8,600 and the Swedish federation $43,000.
In a statement, FILA president Raphael Martinetti said the Swedes showed a "serious lack of Olympic spirit."
Abrahamian disputed a penalty call which decided his semifinal bout against Andrea Minguzzi in the Greco-Roman 84-kilogram division. The Italian went on to win the gold medal.
Abrahamian won his bronze medal bout after his coach reportedly argued with judges and accused them of corruption.
During the medal ceremony, the Armenian-born wrestler took the bronze medal from his neck and dropped it on the mat as he walked away.
The International Olympic Committee stripped Abrahamian of the medal and expelled him from the Games after ruling he violated the Olympic charter and was disrespectful to other medalists.
The Swiss-based wrestling body opened its own investigation and published verdicts Thursday.
Martinetti said the decision by the judges in Beijing in the disputed bout was made according to the rules.
"The coach has been judged equally guilty since he did not intervene to calm his wrestler, "FILA secretary general Michel Dusson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "And the federation was responsible for the behavior of its members, the wrestler and the coach, which was reprehensible."
The punishments took effect Nov. 3 and the parties have 21 days to appeal the verdicts to FILA.
The cases could then go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Abrahamian is also contesting the IOC rulings.
He won a first CAS hearing in August to establish that he was not given fair rights to protest the result of his disputed bout. He is now waiting for CAS to hear an appeal to downgrade his IOC expulsion to a warning.
By K.J. Pilcher
The emotional and physical demands of wrestling can be trying on competitors and their closest supporters.
Occasionally, the sport's daily grind can strain a bond between the two, especially if that relationship isn't bolstered by shared DNA or mat experience. University of Iowa national runner-up Joey Slaton and his stepfather, Matt Shaver, have grappled with that very dilemma.
For almost 17 years, they've encountered wrestling's vast range of experiences, surviving bouts of frustration and conflict and enjoying the many good times.
"We get into our fights, you know, "Slaton said during a summer interview. "Just like every other parent. It's not anything really that serious."
Slaton's mother, Robin Shaver, and Matt introduced Slaton to wrestling when he was 4 for practices at the YMCA,
"We got him started, because at the time Joe had a lot of energy, "Matt Shaver said. "He was always on the go, always moving."
Joey and Matt spent a lot of time together at youth tournaments, wrestling and bonding.
"They'd have a lot of stories they'd come home with and they just seem to click on that subject, "Robin said. "You could never tell, that even though his last name and our last name are different, they still wouldn't put together that Matt wasn't his dad.
"They always thought he was Dad. They'd even say, 'they look alike.'"
Shaver played an active role in Slaton's wrestling career, patrolling matside as Slaton became a four-time state finalist and two-time state champion for Cedar Rapids Kennedy. He's regularly attended college meets at Iowa and Virginia Tech. He's also had a big influence off the mat.
"He gives me guidance, "Slaton said. "It's just like any other parent, father, father-figure or whatever. He teaches me the rights and wrongs of your life.
"I just remember going to practice and him yelling at me and stuff. Telling me to get going. I pretty much picked it up every time after he said that."
As tough as things may have gotten or as much as Shaver may have pushed, Slaton never played the "You're not my dad "card.
"I never said it, but I'm sure I thought it to myself or something, "said Slaton, who has had regular contact with his biological father, Brian. "Then you realize that you're lucky."
"I'll hand him that, "Shaver said. "He's never ever used that."
Some of Shaver's motivation may stem from his own childhood. Shaver, 39, was raised by a single mother. He saw his dad for the first time as a teenager. His male influences were his uncles, Nick Streff and Harry Hyde. He even experienced a bad relationship with a stepdad for a few years.
"I think that played a major part, "Robin Shaver said, "because he knew the situation of a single parent, and he didn't know if that same thing would happen to Joe. He didn't want him to feel like he didn't have a father or didn't fit into a family."
Slaton wasn't aware of Shaver's history.
"I'm thankful for what he's done, "said Slaton, who also acknowledged the sacrifices of his sister, Raelynn, and 9-year-old brother, Cameron. "My mom and him spent all the money and time to take me to tournaments."
The relationship reached a crossroads when Slaton got to college. Shaver said he had a hard time stepping back, constantly questioning Slaton about weight control, what he was working on in practice, his workout partners and his schoolwork.
"He wanted to be more involved than he should have been, "Slaton said. "It was stressful. I'm thinking about school and wrestling and then I have to think about my dad. I told (Iowa Coach Tom) Brands he had to call him."
Brands intervened and assured Shaver he could handle the coaching duties.
"(Brands) said you don't need to worry about the wrestling part of it. You just be his dad. You just be there for him as his dad. I got this, "Shaver said.
Brands declined to comment on specifics, but said "it was always positive."
"Matt Shaver, all he wants is what's best for his son, "Brands said. "All Joe Slaton wants is to do the best he can do and win championships. They have the same end in sight."
Shaver listened to wrestler and coach.
"It was a little hard to let go, "Shaver said. "It took a little bit of time, but I think it's been the best for Joe and my relationship."
The new partnership helped Slaton flourish as a red-shirt sophomore. He was 31-5 mark and a national runner-up at 133 pounds. He placed third at the Big Ten tournament.
"So much stress was taken off. I could just think about my matches, "Slaton said. "It helped me out a bit this year."
Second doesn't bode well with Slaton. He won't be satisfied until he has his own title to match the one the team earned last March.
"You have to be ready for every match and you have to work hard, "said Slaton, who trained this summer with Iowa assistant coaches Doug Schwab and Mike Zadick as they prepared for the Olympics. "You have to sacrifice some things to get what you want. I'm just going to have to work harder."
"Robin and I are very proud parents, "Matt Shaver said. "We're proud to say Joey's our son."
By Jeff Beshey
A few weeks after the Sydney Games were over I sat down with Olympic Bronze Medalist and University of Minnesota heavyweight Garrett Lowney. Although the 21 year old Lowney has been a student/athlete at the U of MN for two years, he still has four years of college eligibility left and has yet to step on the mat as a Gopher. I asked him about his Olympic experience and what he expects as a college wrestler.
What are some of the ways your life has changed since winning the Olympic bronze medal?
Overall my life really hasn't changed. I'm a student again going through all the same things everyone else goes through. I'll soon be back with the team just like always. There are a few different things like signing autographs, going to speak with people and getting noticed every once in a while, which is a little different for me, but overall my life really hasn't changed that much.
When did being an Olympian become your goal?
My mom says that I told her when I first started wresting, at five or six years old, that I wanted to be in the Olympics. I don't really remember that, but she swears by it. I do remember watching wrestling as a very young kid and dreaming about being there.
How old were you when you started wrestling?
I was five years old. My dad got me started just playing around in a little kids club. A few years later, they realized I had some potential and they started pushing it a little bit more. Probably about third or fourth grade my dad got me into freestyle because by that time there wasn't anyone in my club or in my area that was anywhere near where I was, so we went to the national tournaments and I got a lot of match time and went up against a lot of very tough kids in that age group.
When did you really believe you could make the Olympic Team?
I guess I always believed that I could, but probably around nationals. When I placed second at nationals. I realized that it was really close and I just had to perfect a few things and polish off some of the things I was doing wrong. At that point -- at nationals this year -- is when I knew that I was very close and it was within my reach.
How did you prepare yourself for the Olympics?
I watched more tape, I watched myself quite a bit trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I worked on my par terre [position] quite a bit because that seemed to be the only thing missing. By that time I had developed such a style on my feet that no one was taking me down. No one in the world took me down. I was really comfortable on my feet. My par terre wrestling was going to be the main make or break for the matches -- whether or not I performed on top and on bottom."
Did you train with the other Olympic team members?
We had a trip to Russia and wrestled in the Poddoubny Tournament about a month before the Olympics, which is considered to be as tough as the Olympics because there's 10-12 Russians in every weight and then all those surrounding Russian countries like Georgia and Kazakstan were there too. It's a very very difficult tournament. That was the point I knew I could compete internationally. I wrestled in that tournament and I competed against some of the best in the world. After that we had our two week training camp in Colorado Springs. Then we left about two weeks early for Australia and trained for a week in Canberra. Those were the three main training camps. Other than that, I trained here in Minnesota.
Who did you train with from the U.S. that helped you out?
Marty Morgan helped me tremendously with my defense and my style and seeing the little things that I was missing. Dan Chandler of course helped me tremendously with developing my Greco style. Billy Pierce and Quincy Clark, who made the Olympic team -- I wrestled with them quite a bit. There was a lot of people around that I could train with.
How much of the Olympic competition was mental? How much was physical?
You've got to be physically strong and physically ready for the Olympics because if you're not, you don't even belong out there. I was in the best shape of my life. At that level if you fall asleep in a match for even a couple of seconds it might cost you the match. Being mentally focused and concentrating the entire match is very important. I believe you've got to know you can win when you step out on the mat. By that time, I had trained so hard and I felt so good and so confident about everything -- I knew I could win every match. I lost in the semifinals to the gold medalist because I wasn't focused and I gave up points right away. I wasn't focused and I wasn't ready for the match. That really showed how much of it was mental because if you take even one split second of not concentrating, it could cost you the whole match, which it did.
What is it like to represent the whole United States?
It feels great, especially when you stand on the podium and watch your flag raised. I would have liked it better if they were playing my national anthem but it really is a great honor to represent your country and everything it stands for.
Did you have a lot of fan support at the Olympics?
There was about 20 people, friends and family that came all the way down there to watch me. That helped a lot because they really lit up the crowd and they really let people know who they were cheering for. They were so loud and it really does help.
What is the pinnacle achievement for amateur wrestlers?
Because world championships and the Olympics are the biggest competition that amateur wrestlers can compete in, they are the pinnacle. Being a world champ -- especially in Greco, there's been very few world champs and even fewer Olympic champions. So, if you reach that level to be number one in the world in Greco, that is the pinnacle -- that is the top of the game. No one from the U.S. in Greco has ever won two gold medals. There's only a couple of people who have medalled twice in the Olympics in Greco. It's definitely the top priority and top goal of all amateur wrestlers.
Did you get to meet anyone that impressed you at the Olympics?
I got to meet a lot of the athletes -- Maurice Green, Marian Jones. I was with the Dream Team at the Opening Ceremonies. I got my picture taken with the Williams sisters. Everyone just had this equality. Before the Opening Ceremonies everyone was walking around meeting the different teams, taking pictures and videos. The only time I really was in awe was meeting Muhammad Ali. He stepped out of the car and it was like whoa! This is Muhammad Ali! It really was exciting meeting everyone and walking out into the stadium at Opening Ceremonies after watching it for so many years -- kind of makes you think, wow, do I really belong here? It was an experience I'll never forget.
Does that atmosphere make it harder to focus?
It really does, and that's the biggest difference between the Olympics and any other competition -- all the press and all the hype. The Olympic Committee did a good job of preparing us for what to expect. The biggest thing I had to concentrate on was not to become a spectator -- going to all the events and trying to meet all these people and forgetting about the real reason that I'm there. I had to get out and see some of the events and take my mind off things but I really had to focus on why I was there and what I had to do.
As an athlete could you watch any of the other events you wanted?
They had sign-ups where you could sign up for tickets first-come first-serve and they had so many tickets for each event. You could just sign up and pick up your ticket and head on over to the event. It was a pretty good deal. We went to a few volleyball games and a basketball game. We had fun but we couldn't really participate and relax and do everything that the other fans were doing because we had to stay focused because we hadn't competed yet. We were one of the last events of the Games.
Did you have a chance to do any site-seeing in Australia?
After the Olympics I took a little vacation. I went to Dunk Island, which is a little island resort off The Great Barrier Reef, for a few days. We went swimming and snorkeling. It was a pretty good deal.
Let's switch gears a bit. Why did you decide to go to the University of Minnesota?
One of the main reasons was the program and the practice partners they had for me. At the time Joel Sharratt was here. Tim Hartung, Billy Pierce, Marty Morgan, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin -- all these guys. This was the best room for a heavyweight in the country. Another big reason was I got accepted into The Carlson School of Management. It's a top school and that was probably the thing that pushed me over the edge. That's probably the thing that made me decide -- the academic part of it.
What other schools did you consider?
I was getting recruited by Wisconsin, Iowa State, Northwestern. I visited Iowa State, Northwestern, and Minnesota. After I took the visit, I was leaning towards Minnesota because the guys were great. Everyone seemed so nice and everyone clicked so well with my personality. We had a lot of fun and so that was a big reason why I was leaning towards here and once I found out that I would for sure get accepted into Carlson as a freshman, it definitely made up my mind for me.
How hard has it been to basically sit on the sidelines the past two seasons with the Gophers?
I'm definitely ready. I've been sitting in the stands way too long already. It really is hard. If you're a competitor, you don't want to be in the stands, you want to be out on the mat. It really is tough. But it might have prepared me and gave me that extra little edge because I'm so ready now to put that singlet on and do some damage this year.
Brock Lesnar has been something of a fan favorite the last couple of years. Do you feel any pressure to live up to his accomplishments?
I don't think about filling his shoes at all. We're two totally different styles of wrestlers. We're two totally different wrestlers and there's really no similarity in how we wrestle. I'm not feeling any pressure to fill his shoes and to become a big celebrity like he was. He earned everything he got and he was a hard worker. I'm out here to win every match. I honestly believe -- anyone I wrestle, every time I step on the mat -- I can win. I just have to take it one match at a time, My ultimate goal is to be a national champ. Whether or not that comes is up to me. I don't really think about taking up Brock's place, although I get that a lot. People ask 'are you big enough to take Brock's spot,' because he was such a huge guy and he really dominated a lot of people. But that's the difference between him and me, I'm not going to be the big, dominating, powerhouse wrestler.
You're not the biggest heavyweight. How will you approach wrestling guys 30-40 pounds bigger than you?
I was a heavyweight in high school my senior year. I've wrestled a lot of heavyweights. I've wrestled with the best heavyweights in the country right in the practice room -- Billy Pierce, Brock Lesnar, and Shelton Benjamin. All these guys were All-Americans. All of them are big guys. The size of my opponents doesn't bother me at all. You've got to learn how to wrestle heavyweights. It's something that you've got to develop and you've got to know. There's a strategy to wrestling heavyweights. I don't think there is anyone in the country that's any stronger than me just because they're heavier or bigger than me. I've worked hard with my strength training. That's one of my advantages, I have a lot of strength but yet I'm small enough and I'm quick enough.
Does your success at the Olympics put any extra pressure on you?
I don't worry about the pressure anyone else gives me. I put enough pressure on myself. I don't have to pay attention to what everyone else thinks. There's a lot of chatter out there. Some of the polls have me at number five or number six. All that means nothing to me. I know my ability. I'm confident in my ability. The only pressure I feel is the pressure that I put on myself.
Does your Olympic experience give you an edge in college competition?
I think it really does because I'm coming off such a big tournament. I'm real confident and I'm real excited about wrestling. The only thing I've got to be careful of, is not to have a letdown. After a big competition sometimes athletes are prone to having letdowns and not competing at the best of their ability just because of the mental letdown and all of the stress you feel at that big tournament. Wrestling college and wrestling Greco is totally different and I haven't proven anything in college yet. I'm definitely motivated and definitely excited about the season and about wrestling for the University of Minnesota.
What do you give up to keep your amateur status and college eligibility?
I can't accept any prize money. I can't accept money for speaking if its because I'm a medalist. I gave up money for winning the Bronze. I never even considered taking that, and giving up my amateur status. There's life after wrestling and I have to get my degree.
Do your plans include future World Championships? future Olympics?
Definitely four more years. I want to win my gold medal. In four years, I'll still be training hard with the University of Minnesota and summers I'll still be wrestling world championships. Definitely in four years I'll try out for Greece and then after that we'll see what opportunities come up.
College wrestling and world championships is a lot of wrestling isn't it?
Yes it is, but even if I wasn't wrestling Greco and was just sticking to college, I'd still be training and doing lots of wrestling in the summers anyway. The only difference is I'll be competing in the summers when otherwise I would just be training and working out and not competing.
You've had success in both Greco-Roman and freestyle. Any desire to do more freestyle?
I miss freestyle a little bit, but I really did fall in love with Greco this year. I'll be sticking with Greco. I considered -- what if I won my gold in Greco this year? Maybe I'd go freestyle just to see what I could do. I didn't get my gold in Greco -- so I'll still be going Greco.
Mike Rodriguez was one of the great college wrestlers of the 1950s -- a three-time Big Ten champ and two-time NCAA finalist for the University of Michigan...
Then he became a long-time high school coach in Detroit, molding Michigan high school state champions.
Now there's a neat video tribute to Mike Rodriguez as wrestler and coach, including black-and-white footage of some of his most thrilling college matches on YouTube.
By GREG TUFARO
Sophomore Darrion Caldwell, an NCAA All-American wrestler who asked for his release from North Carolina State University, has been granted permission to speak with three schools, including Rutgers, where he would like to continue to wrestle and possibly try to resume his football career.
It remains to be seen, however, whether or not N.C. State officials will release Caldwell from his wrestling scholarship commitment. If they don't, Caldwell's father, Kevin, said his son will still transfer.
Without an NCAA one-time transfer release, Caldwell would lose a year of wrestling eligibility, hindering his chances of winning a national title and perhaps one day realizing his ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.
Caldwell is N.C. State's first All-American since 1996. A two-time NCAA qualifier and owner of a 62-9 career record, Caldwell won his second straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship this season. He also placed fifth in the NCAA Tournament at 149 pounds. As a 141-pounder, Caldwell was named the ACC's 2006-07 Wrestler of the Year. He is the jewel of N.C. State's program.
The addition of Caldwell, a three-time state champion with a 146-4 career record at Rahway High School, would bolster Rutgers wrestling coach Scott Goodale's already highly touted recruiting class. One national publication ranks it among the top 10 in the country.
Goodale's incoming recruits feature three reigning NJSIAA champions, including undefeated scholastic wrestler Scott Winston of Jackson Memorial, and two state runners-up.
"I don't think there's any other school besides Rutgers that I really want to be at, "Caldwell said in a telephone interview from his dorm room in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday.
Caldwell said homesickness and a desire to step back onto the gridiron " he was a Home News Tribune All-Area high school cornerback in 2005, but hasn't played football since " have contributed, in part, to his decision to transfer.
Kevin Caldwell said it was becoming a financial burden for he and his wife to attend Darrion's matches, and that the family decided it would be better if his son could compete closer to home.
Caldwell also received permission to speak with Delaware State and Towson State, two Division I-AA schools which recruited him out of high school to play football.
Chances of the diminutive Caldwell playing football and also wrestling at Rutgers are slim. The last Scarlet Knight to compete in both sports was Ramel Meekins, a 2006 graduate.
Caldwell would be eligible to play football immediately at a Football Championship Subdivision school, but would have to sit out a year upon transfering, with the intent of "walking on, "to Rutgers or any other Bowl Subdivision gridiron program.
Caldwell, however, could wrestle next season at any school as long as N.C. State grants him a release.
North Carolina State head wrestling coach Carter Jordan said he told Caldwell earlier this month that he would try to help Caldwell play football with the Wolfpack or at any Division I-AA school, but that he would not release Caldwell to another wrestling program.
In an e-mail Jordan sent to Kevin Caldwell on April 3, the coach wrote in part: "I am extremely frustrated that every time a smaller program like ours begins to make a move nationally, the big boys swoop down and try to steal our guys. Darrion has been bombarded with calls from other schools from the big conferences. It is illegal and immoral. I intend to fight for Darrion and my program."
Kevin Caldwell refuted that allegation, stating that Darrion has not been in contact with any other university.
During a telephone interview on Wednesday, Jordan seemed to soften his stance on denying Caldwell his release.
Asked if he would release Caldwell to wrestle for another program, Jordan said: "I don't know the answer to that question yet. I'd be willing to talk to him about that. Of course I would. I'm a reasonable person. . . . In the beginning it was the big schools, big programs, and I was angry."
Jordan said he and the school were trying to do what's best for the student-athlete and protect their investment in Caldwell, who benefits from academic support and other services the school provides as part of its scholarship agreement.
"I don't think it's appropriate that we put in two years of work and then he skips and goes somewhere else, "Jordan said. "Certainly he's got the right to do that, but we just feel like the responsibility lies back on the young man, that he's got to bear the onus of that. We are not going to be a farm league for (other schools). It sets a real poor precedent for somebody to come here and all of a sudden want to leave.
"We are not talking about some third-string kid, we are talking about an All-American that wants to leave, so hold your horses."
Asked why any school should make a distinction regarding the release of an All-American or third-stringer, who assumedly receives the same benefits, Jordan said: "That's a great question. In all honesty, there probably should be. I'm being as open and honest with you as I can."
The majority of NCAA student-athletes transfer without issue, but each school reserves the right to deny a release and discussions regarding the release of high-profile student-athletes can sometimes become contentious.
Jordan told Caldwell that his transfer from N.C. State would hurt the school's Academic Performance Rate, an NCAA index that measures the academic performance and graduation rates of student-athletes at member schools. Institutions that fail to meet the NCAA minimum APR standard could lose scholarships. Caldwell, owner of a 2.5 grade-point average, is in good academic standing. Kevin Caldwell said he told Jordan the school's APR is of no concern to Darrion.
"Certainly the APR is one reason why we do not release athletes from their obligations here at N.C. State, "Jordan wrote in his April 3 e-mail, "however, it is not the only reason."
John Fagg, N.C. State's associate athletics director in charge of compliance, refused to answer questions Wednesday regarding Caldwell's status.
Asked what circumstances in general might preclude N.C. State from granting a student-athlete his or her release, Fagg said: "That's a difficult question. It's very individualized."
Asked if he has denied a one-time transfer release to any other student-athlete at N.C. State in the past, Fagg said, "I don't feel a desire to say yes or no."
By JOSH KATZOWITZ
GOSHEN, Ohio " The scream that Dustin Carter let loose in a gym here last weekend conveyed equal parts pain and elation. It was the sound of glory for a high school senior who wrestles unlike any of his opponents.
Carter, a high school senior, uses prosthetic legs when not wrestling. He is 41-2 this season and is competing in Ohio's state tournament.
Carter, 18, is a 103-pounder whose legs end at his hips, whose right arm stops just after his elbow and whose left arm is even shorter. He had the rest taken from him at age 5 because of a blood infection that required extensive amputations.
His life is not easy, but he gets by just fine " particularly on the wrestling mat. His scream was his guttural recognition that he had earned a berth in the state's Division II wrestling tournament, finishing third in his region and carving out his place among the best wrestlers in Ohio. On Thursday in Columbus, he won a match in triple overtime to reach the quarterfinals.
"He's our miracle," said his mother, Lori Carter. "He's my hero. He's my son, but he's also my hero."
Carter has compiled a 41-2 record this season for Hillsboro High School, about 55 miles east of Cincinnati. He has also won a handful of tournaments and inspired nearly everyone who has watched him.
"His perseverance speaks for itself," said Scott Goodpaster, Carter's trainer. "He wants to win. He wakes up every day wanting to win. This is his passion, and he bleeds for it. He works so hard to get by in life."
Nearly every task would seem to pose a challenge, even if Carter makes things look easy. To drink his Vitamin Water, for instance, he unscrews the cap with his teeth or with his short arms, balances the bottle with his bottom nubs while regripping with his arms, tilts the liquid into his throat and moves on to his next destination with the bottle in his mouth.
He can do 20 chin-ups with a 40-pound weight attached to his neck. He can lift weights. About the only thing he cannot do, Goodpaster said, is cut his own steak.
When he was 5, Carter contracted meningococcemia, an acute bacterial infection of the bloodstream. By the time his mother had rushed him to the hospital, he had a temperature of 104 and splotchy skin. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped while he was being airlifted to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, according to family members. The medics brought him back three times before stabilizing him.
Carter, it seemed, was being stubborn.
"He had always been competitive and very strong-willed and determined " always," his mother said. "It used to get him in trouble. He was a terror before he got sick. He was stubborn and strong-willed. Thank God he got those qualities."
While doctors attended to Carter at Children's Hospital and told his parents he might not last the night, his father, Russ, found his way to the chapel and prayed for a miracle. An hour later, when Russ returned to the room, his son's vital signs had improved.
Two and a half months later, Carter left the hospital free from the infection but facing a life full of new obstacles.
"After about a year, he started getting out there and doing normal things," Russ Carter said. "He realized he could do this stuff. He wasn't really restricted to anything he wanted to do. I don't help him with anything. I might help him to speed him up, but he doesn't want the help. He's stubborn."
Carter decided in eighth grade that he wanted to wrestle. The day his son told him, Russ Carter said, "I knew there wasn't going to be an argument about it."
After the matches on Saturday, a district tournament official asked Carter to fill out a form for the state meet. The official said Carter's coach, Nathan Horne, could write the answers if he needed help. Nope, Carter responded, taking the pen with both arms. He would do it himself " and with decent handwriting, no less.
That determination would serve him well in the future. He hopes to wrestle in college and would like to be a motivational speaker and nutritionist.
"I don't look at myself as different," said Carter, who uses prosthetic legs when he is not wrestling. "I wrestle like anybody else. I go to school like anybody else. I can live on my own like anybody else. I can do anything anybody else can do. I don't like people feeling sorry for me. Some people do."
None of those people were with him Saturday in a Goshen High School gym full of fans who rose and awarded him a standing ovation as he screamed.
When time finally ran out during his consolation semifinals match against Dustin Davidson, the scoreboard showed a 3-1 victory for Carter. Knowing the victory had landed him in the state tournament, he scurried to the middle of the mat, lifted his head toward the ceiling and roared. Not once, but twice.
"I'll never forget it," Carter said. "I've been waiting for this too long. It was my last chance. I've been struggling to sleep all weekend. I've been dreaming about my matches. It's stayed in my head too long. That was everything coming out."
His family, wearing buttons with pictures of Carter, surrounded him as he galloped to his father and leaped into his arms. They cried into each other's shoulders. The friends and family who surrounded them shed tears, as well.
"I don't think I've ever felt such elation in my life," Lori Carter said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "He's worked so hard. After everything he's been through, he deserves his dream."
I've seen good wrestling matches in the past, but this kid is the champ. Check out his amazing move that gets him the pin!
This is something you have to see to believe.