By Brandon Marshall
Some athletes are born to defy the odds. This couldn’t be more true for 14-year-old wrestler Ryan Leonard, who was born without arms.
“I couldn’t live without it,” said Leonard, a freshman at Eastern Randolph High School. “It’s my favorite sport. I like the individual part about it. You can’t blame anybody for it and they can’t blame you.”
Becuase Leonard is missing both his arms, each time he steps onto the mat he reminds himself that he’s at a disadvantage from his opponents, but that he’ll have to work harder.
“I’m looking for him to give it his best,” Leonard said. “I know he’s not gonna let up on me, so I got to do what I got to do.”
For some, wrestling without arms may pose a challenge, but for Leonard, it doesn’t stop him from competing, and to his teammates, Leonard is just another wrestler on the team.
Valentine Navarro is Leonard’s closest teammate and he said Leonard is not easily discouraged.
“He doesn’t get put down, like I thought he would be,” Navarro said. “He does everything by himself.”
Navarro and Leonard’s friendship extends off the mat, too. Navarro helps Leonard tie and untie his shoes, gets him Gatorade and help him with his wrestling uniform.
“I love Ryan.” Navarro said.
And Leonard appreciates everything Navarro helps him with.
“That’s my dude.” Leonard said. “He helps me with everything, getting my shoes on, helps me with everything.”