Monday, December 28, 2009

A warrior's battle

I got a phone call Saturday from Bill Lahman and you could hear the sorrow in his voice.

For those of you who hang out on the internet wrestling forums, Bill is the infamous willyman57. To say that he can be abrasive when posting is to say that Bill Gates made a little money in the software business.

There’s another side to Bill that doesn’t always travel well through the ether. He’s a caring man who is passionate about wrestling – and wrestlers. He and I developed an affinity because we live in the same city and because we were both present at what we old timers consider the most famous athletic event in Iowa high school history – the 1965 football game between Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Davenport Central. I was in the stands rooting for the Central Blue Devils and Bill was down on the field helping the J-Hawks to a 20-18 victory.

Bill’s Saturday call had nothing to do with that game. It was about Adam Frey and the impending end to Adam’s battle with cancer. Telephone conversations are only slightly better than computer messages when it comes to gauging the emotions behind the words, but based on the way Bill’s voice kept cracking, I suspect that there were tears in his eyes.

“Jim, we’ve got to honor this young man – the wrestling community, the NCAA, everyone. Couldn’t teams sew a memorial patch on their singlets? I don’t know, but we have to do something. Have you read the last few entries on his website? Did you read the letter to Adam’s mother from his former teammate at Blair? By God, that says it all.”

Less than two hours after Bill called word came that Adam was gone.

For those who don’t know about Adam – here’s the short version. He was an outstanding wrestler who was a junior nationals freestyle champion. One of Cornell University’s top recruits, he qualified for the NCAA Division I Championships as a freshman. On March 25, 2008 he was in a car accident. Swerving to avoid an oncoming car in his lane, he crashed into a tree. His injuries were not life threatening – but, during a routine scan for internal injuries, three tumors were discovered – one in his lung, one in his liver and one in between his kidneys.

Rumors of his diagnosis immediately hit the wrestling websites and forums. Adam’s friend – and the wrestling world’s go-to web development goddess – Danielle Hobeika, confirmed the diagnosis and had a website created and up for Adam in just a couple of days. It was through this website and his blogs that thousands of us got to know Adam and his family. We learned of his quirky sense of humor, his individualism, but most of all we got a lesson in courage. Bill Lahman was one of the very first to send Adam well wishes.

Adam touched those of us who never met him in ways he couldn’t possibly imagine. Those who did know him – well – Jason Bryant says it this way.

So - how do we honor Adam Frey? How do we keep his memory alive with the respect he deserves. The wrestling community is already rallying. There are early indications that something might be done at the Midlands Championships. This note came yesterday from Pat Tocci of the National Wrestling Coaches Association:

“We are thinking of something that would promote his foundation at the National Duals. It might be something as simple as a table on the concourse (where) people can make a donation and have a book (available) to write wishes for the family. We want to do something that will be sustainable over the course of time.”

As for Bill - he already has a group of people creating a sticker that can be worn on headgear or affixed to equipment bags or laptops – anywhere that will remind us of Adam’s courage.

Ultimately, it’s within us all that his memory must live and it’s obvious that there are many who will never forget Adam Frey.

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