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|USA Wrestling and U.S. Paralympians visit Colorado high school wrestling amputees|
By Michelle Thilges USA Wrestling
The people who made the trip to Berthoud, Colo. remember the day they lost a limb vividly.
For Mark Scott, Director of State Services at USA Wrestling, it was being pinned in between two cars while working on his engine in the evening.
For John Register, Director of Outreach and Development and Director of Military Program for the Paralympics, it was an accident while training for the 1996 Olympics in a hurdle event.
And Jarrett Perry, the World Paralympics record holder for the 200 backstroke, it was hearing the story from his parents about his leg being amputated when he was just two days old.
All of these stories were shared Tuesday afternoon at the Berthoud High School gym, where Tyler Carron and Nikko Landeros returned to school after they both lost their legs.
It was January 15 and Carron and Landeros were coming home from a school dance. Their car got a flat tire along Larimer County Road 17. The two boys, who were members of Berthoud's wrestling team, were getting tools from the back of their vehicle, when another car came over the hill and hit them.
As a result of the accident, Carron and Landeros lost both of their legs. They went through several surgeries, and Landeros recovered from lung infection as well.
James Marquez, Executive Director of Northern Colorado Children's Amputee Foundation, organized the meeting with USA Wrestling and the Paralympics to inform and encourage Carron and Landeros. Marquez lost one of his arms in a farming accident as a child.
"I wanted Tyler and Nikko to be able to get on the phone with these people when they had questions," Marquez said. "The best person to ask is another person who has gone through the same thing."
One-by-one, Scott, Register and Perry shared their stories of how they lost their legs and how their lives have changed because of it.
"We don't put our pants on one leg at a time anymore," quipped Register.
The three-time All-American in track at the University of Arkansas said five days after his accident, he was an amputee. Though he didn't continue on with track, he still made a strong statement in swimming by becoming a silver medalist at the 2000 Paralympics Games.
"Do what you want to do," Register told Carron and Landeros. "If you want to wrestle again, do it if that is what you desire."
In addition to Scott, Register and Perry, Steve Fraser, National Greco-Roman Coach and Bill Zadick, 2006 World freestyle Champion attended. Neither Fraser or Zadick are amputees, but both were able to share stories of courage and commitment with the young wrestlers.
"Wrestling is one of the toughest sports," said Fraser. "Through wrestling, you learn to overcome challenges in life."
Zadick echoed Register's advice to Carron and Landeros about being able to do anything with their lives.
"I encourage you to stay involved with wrestling if you want to," he said. "My college coach was Dan Gable and he said 'Once you wrestle, everything else comes easy.' Stay involved. Give back because you are a huge inspiration."
Register and Scott explained how they still experience phantom pain in their legs; that is where they still feel pain in the legs that are missing. Register said it is something the boys will get through.
Scott said after a long day, his legs sometimes hurt. He also talked about things in life that have changed.
"When I go to the other side of the room to get my pants, I also get my shoes and socks because I don't want to be walking back and forth all the time," he said.
Scott explained the process of how he walked again. After he was fitted for his prosthetics, Scott said he used crutches for about a year before he walked on his own.
Perry talked about going through life without his left leg. His aspect was different in that he hasn't even known anything different.
"When I was younger, not everyone knew what was going on, but as I got older, everyone was chill with it," said Perry. "I tried to play baseball. That didn't go so well. I couldn't run. Swimming was the best. I was able to beat other able bodies."
The main message throughout the day was that Carron and Landeros are inspirations for everyone, whether they know it or not. Scott said many people give up and hide behind their injuries, but in spite of that, he has never allowed himself to give up.
"Some people don't have the strength to keep going. I know there will be bad days, you will have them too, but know that you are tough," said Scott.
Carron's father, Bruce, said he thought the day was beneficial to his son and Landeros.
"Mark Scott went through the same thing. He can relate to their situation and they can relate back to him," said Bruce Carron. "They get to see those guys and their accomplishments and know they can do the same thing."
Bruce Carron said the basement in his house is Tyler and Nikko's place to hang out. There is a wrestling mat they can wrestle on and they are able to lift weights. Bruce Carron said they also have a pool table and a week or so ago played wheelchair pool.
Even more than ever, Bruce Carron said Tyler wants to continue wrestling.
"Before the injury, he was unsure if he wanted to wrestle. He was contacted by a few colleges, but wasn't sure. Now, there is no question in his mind he wants to continue," Bruce Carron said.
Register explained several possibilities to keep active in sports. He said there are 24 options in the Paralympics, including several for double amputees.
Register provided Tyler Carron and Landeros with a video of sled hockey, a Paralympics sport that is growing in popularity. In addition, Register brought golf bags and t-shirts with the new Paralympics logo on them.
Scott called the boys "part of the team" when he presented them with the 2006 U.S. World Team warm-ups and USA Wrestling hats.
Landeros said talking with everyone gave him hope.
"Hopefully I will be able to work with the Paralympics," he said. "I think it is exciting to know that everyone cares about us. I want to be like that some day."
Tyler Carron was excited about the sled hockey video.
"I would like to continue with wrestling, but maybe I'll try this hockey," Carron said. "This has been wonderful."