A high school wrestling match doesn’t usually make national news. But undefeated champion and senior Deven Schuko’s simple act of kindness for a fellow wrestler have caught the country’s attention.
Deven’s opponent at the Saturday match was Andy Howland, a 21-year-old transition student at a nearby high school. Howland has Down syndrome and has many victories under his belt after seven years wrestling.
“He’s strong as a bull,” said his mother Debbie told the Sun Chronicle; she and her husband, Jim, are always in the stands at their son’s matches.
The young man has loved wrestling since he was a kid and is an avid fan of pro wrestling, never missing a match on TV. He practices hard and has earned the respect of his coaches, teammates, and opponents.
Ahead of the Saturday triangular meet, he wanted to compete and asked for an opponent. Schuko volunteered immediately, WCVB reported. And that’s a big deal because Schuko is Massachusetts’ top Division 2 high school wrestler. He is undefeated in his high school career, with 27 straight wins, and he just netted his 100th victory.
“I asked the coach, and he said he thought that would be a great idea,” said Schuko, who is also an honor student. “We just wanted to make his day.”
And, just as important, the wrestler said that Howland “wanted a match, and I wanted to tangle with him.” The match wasn’t planned, and it didn’t end as anyone would’ve expected.
“When you get a story like this, and a fine young man like Deven can step up and wrestle our Andy Howland, you know, he’s in for a tussle,” said the Athletic Director at Howland’s school, Doug Kelley.
One would expect any wrestler to be a bit nervous when he finds himself facing the state’s reigning champ. But Howland wasn’t afraid of Schuko. According to CBS Boston, he couldn’t stop smiling.
“We shook hands and we locked up and he was a tough kid and he bulldogged me over to my back. I couldn’t stop the power,” Deven said. “He was strong… If I had to lose to someone, I’d like to lose to (him). It was a win-win in my book. He won, I won.”
That’s right — Andy stopped Deven’s winning streak in its tracks by quickly pinning the undefeated wrestler and giving Schuko his very first loss. That victorious moment was caught on camera.
WCVB noted that the matchup started without much fanfare or special attention, but parent Anthony Pucino recognized that something special was going on. So he pulled out his phone and started recording. His instincts were right. Footage of Deven and Andy tussling on the mat have gone viral.
“This is a video of what a team captain and leader looks like,” Pucino wrote in a post with a video, according to Mass Live. “So proud to have witnessed this. Truly a special young man”
Deven Schuko is getting plenty of kudos, from parents and coaches, for his act of kindness toward another wrestler. The meet was Andy’s third-to-last, since he’ll be turning 22 soon and will no longer be able to compete, making his win against an undefeated wrestler even more special.
“I’ve been in sports all my life and wrestling I believe is most demanding and for someone like Andy to wrestle and stick with it, I wanted to make his day. It’s humbling I guess and pretty cool for all the attention for a simple act of kindness.”
Bystanders have lauded Deven for casting aside his competitiveness, embracing sportsmanship, and doing the right thing even though his undefeated title was on the line. Saturday’s act of kindness was further proof of his character, the wrestler’s admirers noted.
As for Andy, he’s enjoying the attention and the TV interviews that have resulted from Saturday’s victory. When the young wrestler’s career is behind him, he wants to be an assistant coach. His mom, Debbie, expressed her gratitude to Deven Schuko’s for making one of her son’s last meet’s so special.
“I think the message is sportsmanship is alive and well today and it’s because kids are accepting kids like Andrew wholeheartedly.”
[Photo Via YouTube]