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Cancer-free Line looks to continue success at Univ. of Minnesota



When Chris Willaert was told Torrey Line was going to be a national champion, he had doubts.

"This kid was pudgy with a Kool-Aid mustache," said Willaert, the Junior Director of Minnesota USA Wrestling.

But Line, a senior this year at Browerville High in Browerville, Minn., proved himself worthy of the title and has won numerous national championships. He was also the 2006 Minnesota State champion at 171 pounds.

Line has also earned the title of survivor. Cancer survivor.

In August 2006, Line was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer. Line started chemotherapy in September. In December 2006, six inches of bone were removed from Line's left femur and his knee was replaced.

"It is amazing to get through this," said Torrey's mom Kim. "The next step now is to beat it."

When the tumor was removed, the biopsy came back at the tumor was 100 percent dead, meaning Torrey is considered cancer-free. He still has to undergo seven more rounds of chemotherapy, running through June.

Line returned to the Minnesota state tournament this year, but as a spectator.

"It was tough attending the state tournament right away but then I realized I had a big and bright future ahead of me," said Line.

Kim Line said going back to the tournament was difficult to watch.

"It was hard, but on the other hand it was amazing how people were going up to him and acknowledging him," she said.

Line was given a special honor, when he was contacted by a senior from New Richland High School in New Richland, Minn. Mitch Brekke, a 171 pound wrestler, said he had to make it to the finals, because he wanted Line to sit in his corner as a coach. Brekke got his wish. Torrey was sitting in Brekke's corner when he won the title by pinning his opponent.

"Torrey was on the mat in what would have been his match," said Willaert. "When Mitch won, he gave a huge hug to Torrey. You could tell Mitch admired, loved and respected Torrey."

Torrey said it was an honor to be in a coach's position.

"There are people that coach for years and never get to coach a state champion. I was so happy when he (Brekke), his family and coaches asked me to (sit in his corner)," Line said.

The tournament also held special meaning when large amounts of people showed up wearing their own Torrey Line t-shirt.

"A reporter from The Pioneer Press said they noticed the shirts everywhere," said Willaert. "They couldn't walk five feet without seeing a shirt."

The shirts, developed by Willaert, started as a small fundraiser for the Line family to help defray the costs of treatment.

The back of the shirt is a drawing of Line's hand being raised after winning the state tournament last year. In addition to the t-shirts, sweatshirts were also available for purchase.

In a matter of two weeks, the concept and design were complete and the project was approved. A website, www.takedowncancer.com, was created to help sell the shirts across the nation.

Willaert was already in the process of creating a website for a previous project. That project was expected to take three months to put up, but within three weeks, the site was running for customers to get their shirts.

Not only were the shirts available online, Willaert had the shirts sold at section tournaments in the state. Out of 24 sections, 13 sold the shirts, despite some controversy raised by the Minnesota State High School Athletic Association.

The association said the shirts couldn't be sold at tournaments because they were not merchandise that was sold as regular booster club merchandise. However, after much discussion, the decision was changed and the shirts were sold at section and the state tournaments.

"I was expecting to sell maybe 200 to 300 shirts. Right now we have sold over 2,000 shirts," Willaert said.

While the total dollar amount raised thus far hasn't been tallied yet, early projections have it coming in upwards of $15,000.

"I can't say enough good things about Chris," said Kim Line. "He's an amazing person."

The well accomplished Line has had many successes in his career. He was a 2005 ASICS/Vaughan Cadet National Champion in Greco-Roman, and a three-time ASICS/Vaughan Cadet National All-American. Other victories include 2006 Rocky Mountain Junior Regional in Greco-Roman and freestyle competitions and winning the2006 Minnesota/USA Wrestling freestyle and Greco-Roman State championships.

In Line's high school career, he was a five-time state high school tournament entrant and had 179 career wins through his junior year.

Line plans to continue his success at the University of Minnesota in the fall. He is still unsure of his major, but wants to do something in the medical field.

"Being diagnosed with cancer makes me want to help out any way I can in the future," Line said. "College on the other hand, at first I wasn't sure if I wanted to go right away. Just take some time off. But the Gopher coaches have been such a huge support through this whole thing and are going to work with me to get back to normal."

Although he will be red shirting his freshman year, Line is looking forward to the opportunity to wrestle as a Gopher.

"I chose Minnesota because I've always wanted to be a Gopher and it's a great wrestling school. I want to be one of the best so there's no better place to go if you want to be good," he said.

Willaert said though Line may not have vocally said he wanted to be at Minnesota, it has been a dream his whole life.

"I can't wait to watch him, especially after what he is going through," said Willaert. "He is a good fit for the Gophers."

Line said he has remained optimistic about his life and his future in wrestling throughout treatment.

"Cancer took away my senior year, pretty much. I really didn't get to do things most seniors do, let alone win another state title. But being cancer free, I'll look back and realize I didn't need another state title or stuff like that because I'm still alive," he said.

To order a Torrey Line t-shirt, visit
www.takedowncancer.com
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