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Tennessee freshman wrestler fighting to recover from scary in-bout spinal injury

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Hunter Garstin suffered a severe neck injury during a wrestling match for Independence High — Instagram

Hunter Garstin suffered a severe neck injury during a wrestling match for Independence High — Instagram

A young wrestler in Tennessee is in critical stages of recovery following emergency surgery to fuse neck vertebrae following a frightening injury that occurred during a bout in Huntsville, Ala. on Saturday.

As reported by the Tennessean, 15-year-old Independence High freshman Hunter Garstin suffered the dire injury when his head became trapped against an opponent’s torso during a bout in a tournament in Huntsville. Keith Garstin, the injured student’s uncle, relayed that Hunter’s spine was not severed, and that the youngster is already making strides toward a full recovery.

"It was just a freak accident," Keith Garstin told the Tennessean. "It was two inexperienced wrestlers, and it was a prime case of how not to shoot, with your head down. His head was in a bad position and the guy bulldozed him. In a million times, this would never happen. It’s just an unfortunate injury.

"He's got the most incredible attitude. He's sitting up, talking, moving his arms, giving fist bumps."

Those developments led to optimism that Hunter Garstin could still make a complete recovery. Even more promising are reports that the younger Garstin has already experienced tingling in his feet and toes up to his ankles.

In the meantime, the Independence community is rallying around the teen in any way it can. Independence wrestling coach Jared Grindstaff held a meeting Monday with team members and their parents to talk about different ways they could help the Garstin family. The Independence student body is also springing into action. On Monday, all of Garstin’s freshmen classmates produced an Instagram video and giant sign wishing him well and encouraging him to remain strong. A Facebook page soliciting prayers for Hunter's health has also been launched.

On Wednesday the school community will go a step further, wearing red in unison in honor of Garstin’s favorite color (the Tennessean reported that he adopted the hue as an homage to his favorite college sports team, Alabama).

All of those steps are aimed at inspiring confidence and a positive outlook for Garstin. If early signs are a reliable indication, the injured freshman may already be taking that to heart.

"He's in good spirits," Williamson County Schools director Mike Looney told the Tennessean. "He's a courageous young fellow."

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Cameron Smith is the editor of Prep Rally on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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