MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Apple Valley wrestling has dominated the sport in Minnesota for decades, but one of its wrestlers has quite the comeback story.
If you ever think you have it tough — try wrestling.
“I’m just going to push through it. And that’s what wrestling has kind of drilled into me, is that if something’s difficult, you just push through it,” Apple Valley wrestler Sebas Swiggum said.
And Sebas has had a lot to push through.
“I was born in Bogata, Colombia, and I was left at the hospital, then they brought me into the Fana Orphanage,” he said. “I think that my biological mother made the right decision, by, I guess, leaving me instead of trying to take care of me on her own, because I don’t think she would have been able to, because there was obviously a reason why she did what she did.”
It’s something he’s had to come to grips with.
“You know, of course I’ve had my questions before, like, you know, why?” Sebas said. “I’m obviously curious about it, but I just kind of use it to drive me.”
His parents, Paul and Sue Swiggum, adopted him and brought him home when he was a year and a half old. He joined a family that already had another little boy adopted from Colombia, a couple years older named Alejandro, who has special needs.
“He has Lynch Syndrome, and basically, his mind just doesn’t develop like the normal brain,” Sebas said. “He functions at probably a 4-year-old level.”
They are very close.
“He’s a tough kid. He’s been through a lot,” Sebas said.
Last summer, Alejandro was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“By the looks of it, I was like, ‘I think he’s going to die, I don’t think he’s going to make it.’ Because with Lynch Syndrome, and his whole background, I just didn’t think his body would be able to take it. I thought that if the cancer didn’t kill him, then the chemo was going to kill him. But he went down to Mayo Clinic and he fought through all of that,” Sebas said. “It was a shock, and it was tough on my parents, and I just, that night I laid down in bed and I was like, ‘You know, Lord, we need a miracle.’ And just prayed every night since that.”
Shortly after that, his mom was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“Hearing that my mom had thyroid cancer, I was like, ‘What else?’ I mean, this is ridiculous,” he said. “I was like, ‘Why us?’ You know? We’ve been through a ton as a family. Same thing with my brother, I was just like, ‘Lord, give us a miracle.’ I don’t know what I’d do without my mom.”
Both fought it. Both are now cancer-free. Sebas drew a lot of inspiration from their fight.
“And why I’m mentally tough is because I’ve grown up with somebody who is that mentally tough,” he said.
That toughness is evident on the mat, where he’s one of the best in the state. Ranked third at 132 pounds, he beat a two-time state champ earlier this season. He was named a team captain, as only a junior.
He also has a perfect 4.0 GPA — despite a learning disability.
“My brain processes three times slower than the average human,” he said.
Just when you think life couldn’t throw any more at him.
So how can a kid who’s been through so much, accomplish so much?
“I think that one of my gifts that God gave me was the ability to work hard, and push through things,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t like what was going on at the time, but getting through it, and fighting together, hand-in-hand through all the problems and all the ups and downs, we’re thankful at the end of it because it does something to each and every one of us.”
You get the sense that maybe Sebas’ success isn’t in spite of all he’s gone through, but because of it.
“The coaches have always told us, ‘Find what you are fighting for,'” he said.