Young wrestlers' bond is pure 'gold'

LUGOFF, SC (WIS) - Defining the heart of a champion: it's less about the gold and more about the silver lining.

Tanner Misenheimer is a ninth-grader at Lugoff-Elgin High School. He's a wrestler and, this season, he'll be competing in the 106-pound weight class. He wears his team T-shirt with a whole lot of pride.

"In eighth grade, it kinda clicked for me," Tanner said. "That was the sport I wanted to do."

But the sport of wrestling was a little bit of a surprise to him.

"At first, I thought it was gonna be like a ring and ropes like WWE or something," Tanner said.

No ropes and no ring, Tanner realized. It's just a mat and some very worthy opponents. One of those worthy opponents was 10th-grader, Christian Decatur from North Carolina. Tanner was set to wrestle Christian in a preseason tournament a few months ago.

"He was strong, very strong," Tanner said. "And I could tell once he started to wrestle that it was gonna be hard."

Tanner is a great athlete, but he's not even into his freshman season with the L-E wrestling squad. Meanwhile, Christian was last year's North Carolina state championship runner-up. L-E High School wrestling coach, Stanley Monroe, said he and Tanner had been watching Christian wrestle all day. They knew he was good. Really good.

"I already knew he was gonna beat me," Tanner said. "But I tried."

And walk out onto the mat Tanner did.

"It was his fourth opponent and his last match of the day," Coach Monroe said. "And the last period of the last match."

One moment caused one move which resulted in one big pop.

"I was just freaking out," Tanner said. "I was breathing real heavy and everything started to go blurry and I passed out."

In an instant, Tanner's forearm was snapped. But, when he woke up and the ambulance was on its way, Tanner did something that surprised everyone.

"I looked over at Christian and I just smiled and gave him a thumbs up," he said.

Why?

"I could tell he felt bad," Tanner said. "So I just wanted to let him know that I'm alright."

It was a moment that forged something unique between two young men. And it's something their coaches think others can learn from.

They've formed a friendship since the accident. WIS was there as both coaches and boys got on a Skype call.

"I know how it feels to get hurt," said Christian. "I just wanted him to know that he was gonna be OK. And for him to get back into it as soon as possible."

We're told actions speak louder than words,  but what about when the words aren't spoken – they're written?

Christian penned Tanner a letter that was not only humble but heartfelt.

Tanner read us a portion of the handwritten note:

"I want you to have my gold medal. So you will always remember what a powerful impact that blink of an eye had on me. You have the heart of a true champion… now you need to focus on healing and coming back to start the season."

Christian not only sent the letter, but also the medal he won during that preseason tournament. It was a lift up when Tanner needed it the most.

"It made me feel like he actually cared," Christian said. "And it showed what kinda person he was."

As Coach Monroe says – character is defined in times like these. And this circumstance helped two paths cross and an unlikely friendship form. Because sometimes finding the silver lining is as good as gold.

Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved.