Wrestling Blind

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 11:19am

Alaskan high school student overcomes lack of sight in classroom and on the wrestling mat.

Paul Tandy is a sophomore wrestler at West High School in Anchorage, Alaska, but there is one thing that sets him apart.

Paul was born prematurely in Taiwan.

The amount of oxygen he was given as a baby permanently blinded him.

"In the Chinese culture people with disabilities don't usually live, and so basically I was put in an orphanage and ended up getting adopted at a year old," he says.

Having a GPA of 4.0 and playing multiple musical instruments is only the start of things Paul wants to accomplish.

He's now taking up wrestling.

"I've been told that this was a feel sport though so I thought I'd get in and see how I do," he explains.

"I kept calling him sight-impaired and he said 'I'm blind coach', so everybody got a good laugh out of that and he fit right in with this group," says coach Shawn Silverthorn.

Paul's insight has helped him find a way to fit in outside of the gym as well.

"people in high school can be really shallow on how others look, I think its a real big advantage for me to not have to have that cause I can view people for who they really are," he says.

Wrestling is mainly taught by demonstration, but the coaching staff has found a way to get around that.

"We'll have a coach come over and go through it with him, guide his hands, guide his feet or have him listen where the other kids body is at so that he gets that muscle memory," Coach Silverthorn explains.

Paul has discovered some advantages to his disability.

"A wrestler who is looking can be faked out by an opponent where as Paul follows the body movements, he follows the head and the hips, and the hips don't lie," explains assistant coach Ryan Kopiasz.

Training under the idea of movement, he has started winning.

"It wasn't about technique as it was about feeling for me," he says. "That's what I realized and that was something big for me to realize that cause I had never thought of that way before."

Victorious or not, Paul's work ethic and character stand out to others.

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