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Blind wrestler fails to medal but still steals the show at Washington state finals

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

By traditional standards, Arlington (Wash.) High Shawn Berg didn't have a particularly successful state tournament. The senior entered with a goal of finishing in the medals of Class 4A's 160-pound division. Berg didn't achieve that, but he astonished most of those in attendance at the Tacoma Dome for another powerful reason: Shawn Berg is essentially completely blind.

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Arlington blind wrestler Shawn Berg — Seattle Times

Arlington blind wrestler Shawn Berg — Seattle Times

As covered artfully by the Seattle Times' Sandy Ringer, Berg's lack of sight -- he is 100 percent blind in his right eye and 95 percent blind in his left -- couldn't keep him from competing at the highest level of high school wrestling throughout his prep career. Proof of that came on Friday night, when Berg finished the Class 4A's preliminary rounds with a 1-2 record, losing his final match by a narrow 1-0 score. If he had won that bout, Berg would have reached the quarterfinals and earned one of the medals he so badly yearned for.

Instead, Berg left with tears and nothing but plaudits from all those he took on or met at the event.

Despite all the attention that Berg has received throughout his high school career, Berg insists that he doesn't think he has accomplished anything special, despite the kind of prolific skills you can see in the video below, from a match in which Berg knocked off a Lake Stevens (Wash.) High wrestler earlier in the 2012 season.

"I get a lot of people who come up to me and say, 'Wow, it's so great what you're able to do,'" Berg told the Times. "I appreciate all of their comments, but I'm just doing what everybody else is doing. It's just that I can't see. It's no different."

Berg's teammates aren't buying that false modesty. Arlington star Bryce McPherson noted that he can't even walk straight with his eyes closed when recounting why Berg was one of his heroes. Even the coach who first convinced Berg to try wrestling -- his father, Arlington assistant coach Darryl Berg -- said that his son was an inspiration.

"He inspires me," Darryl said. "I'm his biggest fan. There's not that many kids who have been through what he's been through. He's made me a better father, a better man, a better husband. It makes me look at life differently.

"He thinks he can do anything," Darryl said. "He wants to drive a car so bad."

Driving a car may not happen, but with a 3.8 GPA and a wealth of confidence in his own abilities, there are few doubts that Shawn Berg will go on to achieve plenty of impressive things beyond wrestling in the future.

"I'll have regrets," he said. "Everybody has regrets in sports. But like coaches say, it's not about wrestling. It's about life. This teaches you work ethic and going beyond what you think you can do."

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