There are 11 freshman on the UW-Eau Claire wrestling team, but arguably the newcomer with the biggest impact on the entire team has been 10-year-old Samuel Sedelbauer.
In just the few months he’s been with the program, he’s already built bonds that go way beyond the mat.
Samuel is not your typical member of the Blugold wrestling team.
“We noticed his gross motor skills were behind what most kids were so we did a simple test when he was five years old, which diagnosed him with Duchenne muscular dystrophy,” said Gary Sedelbauer, Samuel’s dad.
Through an organization called Team IMPACT, that connects kids with serious diseases and college athletic programs, Samuel signed a letter of intent to join the program before the season.
“It’s meant a lot because Samuel has opened up. He’s a little shy, you know, when he first meets people and stuff but he’s just a happy little boy,” said Gary.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy occurs in 1 out of every 3,600 male infants, according to the National Library of Medicine.
The disease causes muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue.
“He gives you a different perspective I guess on wrestling and life. He just brings such a positive energy and atmosphere. You could be having a tough day at school or something like that, but then to see Sammy kind of brightens up your day. The smile he has just makes you want to smile and go through practice. I don’t know, a lot more joy and enthusiasm,” said Freshman Wrestler Chase Melton.
Melton and Samuel both joined the Blugold family this season.
“We feel like he’s just really a part of the team. He comes to all the meets and stuff, so we just really feel that like he’s a part of that wrestling family, wrestling team,” said Melton.
Samuel usually comes to practice every Monday and tries to attend every meet.
“It’s a really neat experience getting to know these guys. They’re just the salt of the earth, every one of these guys. And they are like big brothers to Samuel,” Gary said.
The letter of intent that Samuel signed at the beginning of this season lasts for two years.
But even when his official time on the Blugold team comes to an end, the relationships that have been built will last for a lifetime.
“I can see ourselves being a part of this university for life,” said Gary.
“Blugold wrestler for life, yeah,” added Melton.