Inspirational. Faith-affirming. Awe inspiring. All those exemplaries and plenty more can fairly be applied to a recent youth wrestling match in Tennessee, where a player who suffers from cerebral palsy "defeated" an able-bodied kindhearted foe.
As reported by the Nashville Tennessean and a handful of other sources, Nashville (Tenn.) Sunset Middle School wrestler Jared Stevens, who happens to suffer from cerebral palsy, recently won the first official wrestling match of his life. He defeated Nashville (Tenn.) Freedom Middle School wrestler Justin Kievet, even though Kievet had to physically pull Stevens' arm over his body to register the pin that made the win official.
According to Stevens' father, Phil Stevens, Jared Stevens has the physical strength of a toddler, unable to even stand on his own. Still, the younger Stevens practices with the Sunset wrestling team every day, lying on the mat to serve as a practice partner for his teammates.
For his first match, Stevens' coach, Clay Mayes, asked the Freedom coach to pick the player "with the kindest heart" to face Stevens. Without pause, Kievet, the first seventh-grade captain in school history, was nominated.
"I was a little nervous," Kievet told the Tennessean. "Then I kind of figured out what to do."
Nervous about an intentional loss. Clearly Kievet has both compassion and maturity beyond Kievet's years.
Incredibly, fans in attendance hardly even had time to dry their tears before getting choked up again, with Freedom putting forward double amputee wrestler Hunter Alexandro against Sunset's most charitable sparring partner, Zach Holmes. Like Stevens, Alexandro won his match with a unique move.
"Hunter put in a nice deep underhook and finished with a half," Mayes told the Tennessean.
Naturally, both bouts have captured the attention of fans from far beyond the Tennessee state borders. They've inspired and encouraged, bringing heart-warming class in the middle of the holiday season.
And the special bouts might not be the last that the two special wrestlers compete, either. Both Alexandro and Stevens are expected to compete in future meets in the coming weeks. For his part, Stevens' father said that his son certainly had the attitude and mental toughness to pull off that feat, even if his body might not cooperate sometimes.
"We're all pretty physical at home," he says. "And he's always talking smack around us. He'll say, 'You want to go, Dad? I'll bust you up.'"
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