State Wrestler Risks His Life Every Time He Takes the Mat

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A junior from AGWSR is taking a big risk every time he hits the mat at the state wrestling tournament.

Caleb Meinders has a condition that could kill him, but it hasn’t stopped him from competing for his school.

“I have autoimmune hepatitis, which is an auto-immune disease where your liver is being attacked by the antibodies because it thinks it's bad,” Meinders said.

What doctors originally thought was mono, turned out to be more serious and a condition that ended Meinders' football career. Since wrestling is considered a contact sport and not a collision sport, his doctors said he could stay on the mat, however, his coach was hesitant.

“When they came to me and asked me what I thought, I wasn't for it," said Chad Gerbracht, AGWSR wrestling coach.

Meinders' parents also had to think about whether letting their son wrestle was the best move. If he is hit just right, it could lacerate his liver, leaving him with just a few minutes to get help.

“We had to have an emergency plan in place. We have to start an IV right away, get him to the hospital, and he would have to have a blood transfusion right away,” said Dawn Meinders, Caleb's mom.

But the wrestler isn't letting his condition rule his life.

“There's nothing to be scared about. If you're scared of it, you'll live in constant fear. And I don't want to have that stopping me," he said.

His mom agrees.

“That's the way we've raised him and that's the way they've always been. Fear can't control your life. He's very devoted and he's got a couple Bible passages that lead him," Dawn Meinders said.

His coach says Caleb's positive outlook and skills on the mat make him a natural leader.

“He's doing a great job. He's a great leader for us in the room, off the mat and in the classroom. And that's the kind of kid you want --a great character,” Gerbracht said.

For Meinders, the risk is worth the reward. And although his parents are nervous, it's a passion they couldn't hold their son back from.

“He's a good kid. He's been very inspirational to us, so we're proud of him," Dawn Meinders said.

Meinders won his match Thursday in his 1A-220 weight class and will wrestle first thing in the morning Friday. Once he graduates, Meinders would like to go into the field of medical research after learning so much about his own condition.