MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Southwest High School’s wrestling team is not necessarily the biggest or the best — but it might be the most inspiring.
Its head coach, Ben Cousins, overcame the odds to wrestle in college. He has now formed a special bond with sophomore wrestler Wyatt Speck, who has Down syndrome. And last weekend, Speck beat some odds of his own.
“We like to call him ‘Flash’ because he can move like The Flash when he’s motivated,” Ben said.
Cousins has autism, so perhaps more than most coaches he saw something exceptional in Speck.
“We like to preach ‘humans first, athletes second,’” Ben said. “We want to become the most inclusive team in the state, and Wyatt is a big part of that.”
That’s what made last Friday so memorable. Speck is known for having fun on the wrestling mat, but in the junior varsity city tournament he just kept winning.
“Vinny and Travis, the two assistant coaches, came up and they were like, ‘We don’t want to freak you guys out, but if Wyatt wins this next match, he’s got it,’” mom Amy Speck.
The final period of the championship match was close, and then Speck pulled away. He was the only wrestler on the team to win his weight class.
“I’ve never seen a kid get hoisted so high in the air in a high school gym in my life,” Ben said.
“He got off the mat and I looked over at his team and his whole team had tears in their eyes and smiles bigger than life,” Amy said. “And they just all embraced him. They picked him up in the air.”
Of course, mom eventually got a hug, too.
“It was awesome,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt says he was ready for the city championship, and he was expecting to win.
“Just winning the city championship like that, it enforced all of that. He can do anything he wants to do and he’ll continue to do it,” Amy said.
Wyatt won his championship match 11-3. Coach Ben Cousins says he has a strong cradle, which catches his opponents off guard.