Dorchester MA - On a chilly January afternoon, BYW middle schoolers from two sites (the Lilla G Frederick Middle School and the Quincy Upper School) gathered in a classroom to listen to the amazing story of Rohan Murphy, a former wrestler now youth motivational speaker. Murphy, who lost both of his legs shortly after birth, recounted what it was like to be a disabled African American boy growing up his predominantly white community on Long Island, NY. He spoke about the incredible relationship he built with his eventual high school wrestling coach, who persisted in encouraging Murphy to learn how use his athletic potential to do pull ups, push ups, and other exercises. Eventually, his coach encouraged him to come out for the wrestling team. On his first day of the team, Murphy realized something about the sport of wrestling: that it was INCLUSIVE, not EXCLUSIVE. This lesson would stick with him for the rest of his life, as he dedicated himself to being the best wrestlers in the state. One story that had the BYW student-athletes recounted how his camp counselor Brock Lesner (yes, THE Brock Lesner of WWE and UFC fame) at the Jay Robinson Intensive Camp in Minneapolis, MN challenged Murphy to walk the length of a football field (100 yards) on his hands, complete 10 pyramid push ups, and then return 100 yards back. Not thinking he could complete it, Murphy impressed Lesner by successfully beating his challenge! Murphy later encouraged the student-athletes that college should be their vision and goal for themselves, and said nothing should get in their way. Murphy himself was a "walk-on" for the Penn State Wrestling team, one of the elite programs in NCAA Division 1 wrestling.
At the end, BYW wrestlers got a chance to get on the mats with Rohan, who showed some wrestlers his technique for turning an opponent.
Kaylalee Ortiz, a second year wrestler for the Frederick MS, said of the visit, "One thing I liked about Rohan's speech is that even though he has no legs, he does anything as any other human being and that's one thing that I respect, and as a wrestler I'm going to work hard to do [as well]."
To read more about the life and work of Rohan Murphy, check out his website here.