Luke Hampton knew he was taking a risk every time he stepped on the wrestling mat. However, the Alleghany (N.C.) High senior, who was the top-ranked Class 1A wrestler in the state, never thought the sport he loved would leave him paralyzed.
As the Winston-Salem Journal and other news outlets throughout the state of North Carolina reported, Hampton's match on Saturday took a horrible turn when he tried to charge his opponent and take him to the mat. In the midst of going for the pin, Hampton lost his grip and went head-first into a padded wall.
"When I saw it, I thought maybe a concussion or he just hit his head," Alleghany High wrestling coach Derrick Calloway told the Winston-Salem Journal. "Right when I got to him, I knew immediately it wasn't good."
The sheer force of the collision broke Calloway's C5 and C6 vertebrae. After being rushed rushed to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, it was confirmed that Calloway's injuries had left him paralyzed from the neck down.
The entire Alleghany community has rallied around Hampton following his injuries, holding prayer vigils and setting up a fund to help the family pay for medical costs. As the Associated Press reported, the goal is for the Alleghany High senior to increase his strength before heading to Shepherd Center, a hospital located in Atlanta, Ga., that specializes in spinal cord injuries.
The hope is that the hospital in Atlanta will give Hampton the best possible chance to regain full movement. Despite the awful situation, Calloway said Hampton's strong work ethic makes him believe he will walk again.
"You don't tell that to anybody in Alleghany or around here because we all know he's going to walk again," Calloway told the Winston-Salem Journal. "Just because they told him he can't do it, he'll do it."
Hopefully he's right. Despite the advancements in injury prevention on the field, wrestling remains one of the few sports that hasn't changed much in the last 20-plus years. While injuries can occur, what happened to Hampton is a rarity in the sport.
You just hope and pray that, like Calloway said, Luke Hampton works hard and finds a way to walk in the future. Based on what coaches and members of the community said about him in recent articles, it sounds like he has a great chance to defy the odds.
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