Northwest College wrestler Brady Lowry returned to the mat this weekend just three months after surviving a grizzly bear attack near Powell, Wyoming.
It's something Lowry had been looking forward to for quite some time — the opportunity to compete on a wrestling mat. It's an opportunity the 21-year-old nearly had taken away from him for good in October.
Lowry, along with three other teammates, ran into a grizzly bear while hiking near Powell. Lowry was attacked first, but his teammate Kendell Cummings jumped in and saved him.
Both wrestlers managed to survive. Lowry with a broken arm, among other things, and Cummings with extensive damage to his face and hands. It's a moment that has changed both of their lives and left them grateful to be alive.
“Just changed my perspective into saying, ‘I’m pushing myself 100 percent every day, and I’m going to be the best me I can when I get out there because I have the opportunity,’" Lowry said. "I really wouldn’t have the opportunity if Kendell didn’t jump in there.”
“Even in life, you could be driving down the road and your car breaks down," Cummings said. "That sucks, but it could be a whole lot worse. That’s kind of how my mindset has changed."
In the months that followed, the men began rehabbing their injuries, hoping that they could make an appearance on the mat this year. For Lowry, there was an increased sense of urgency, as it is his last year of eligibility.
“Now, I’m trying to get him back in there," Head Wrestling Coach Jim Zeigler said. "I want him to have that opportunity. I feel like he’s coming back stronger, smarter, more prepared, and I think it was an awakening for those kids."
Zeigler said Lowry has been determined to get back on the mat in time for this season, and even a doctor's advice during Christmas break couldn't deter him from his goal.
“My doctor told me, ‘If you were my kid, I’d take a red shirt. I don’t know if I’d let you wrestle,'" Lowry said. "And I said, ‘Well it’s kind of my last year.’”
On Friday evening, Lowry's hard work finally came to fruition, as he started in a dual vs North Idaho College at 149 pounds. With Cummings opting to use his redshirt and not compete this year, in a way, Lowry was stepping onto the mat for them both.
“I understood a long time ago that the best option was to probably not wrestle this year and get a full year next year," Cummings said. "I kind of just focused everything towards him and we’re going to get him on the right path."
“Ever since the bear, he’s been there," Lowry said "All the way through, and it’s been awesome."
Lowry wound up losing to the 3rd ranked wrestler in the country by a point but shared an embrace with Cummings before he had even walked off the mat — a moment both men will remember for the rest of their lives.
“It’s a victory just to walk out there," Zeigler said. "Like he said, even if he goes 0-4 he’s still going to have a smile on his face. Just the idea that he’s out there and competing is miraculous.”