Wrestler with form of dwarfism emerges as anchor of Virginia prep powerhouse

Ben Rohrbach
February 12, 2014
Fairfax (Va.) Robinson Secondary School senior wrestler Avery Henry
The 4-foot-10 Avery Henry has become an anchor of a prep wrestling powerhouse's success. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The kids who bullied Avery Henry over the years -- those who smeared Cheez Whiz on his glasses in elementary school or the one who shoved into a locker in eighth grade -- are lucky he's learned restraint.

Henry, who has hypochondroplasia -- a form of short-limbed dwarfism, according to a fantastic Washington Post feature on the Fairfax (Va.) Robinson Secondary School senior -- has blossomed into a key cog in the Virginia prep wrestling powerhouse's hopes for a third state title in four years.

"Wrestling helped me to know what the right path is," Henry told The Washington Post of his challenges grown up, "to make my own decisions with what life was going to give you."

And he's sure made the most of his decisions.

Henry began wrestling in second grade and earned his black belt in taekwondo by age 9, according to the paper. Now, the 4-foot-10 senior can reportedly bench-press 310 pounds, squat 400 and leg-press 690, so he's stronger than most high school kids -- let alone his 145-pound opponents on the mat.

Nicknamed "The Hammer" by his teammates, Henry made the six-time state champion Rams as a freshman. Also training under two-time NCAA champion wrestler Wade Schalles, he helped Robinson capture state titles in 2011 and 2013. This season, Henry owns a 19-14 record and finished third in his conference. He has the Rams contending for their seventh crown in program history this year.

"It's really hard to wrestle him like you would a person of my height," one of Henry's victims this season, rival Chantilly (Va.) Westfield High's Matt Schlink, told The Washington Post. The difference is you can't get to his legs, because he's already pretty low."

Henry is currently garnering interest from Division I wrestling programs, according to feature. His favorite move, by the way, is one of Schalles' signatures -- the cement mixer. Bullies beware.