Brentwood Student Won't Let Cerebral Palsy Hold Him Back
by Heather Graf
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - He might be the most famous middle schooler around, but that wasn't at all his intention. 13-year-old Jared Stevens just wanted to take part in a wrestling match.
Now, video of his unbelievable win has been shared more than 97,000 times on Facebook.
The Sunset Middle School student has cerebral palsy, but refuses to let his disability hold him back.
"His biggest desire is to be normal, to be as normal as he possibly can be," said his wrestling coach and special education teacher, John Sandella. "And my goal is to help him do that."
Jared initially joined the wrestling team as somewhat of an assistant coach, but he wanted more.
"You know, he'd be on the sideline, and he'd yell and scream at them like the other coaches do," said his dad, Phil Stevens. "And one day, he came forward and said I'd like to get on the mat."
Jared's parents and coaches agreed to let him carefully wrestle some of his teammates during practice.
After a few weeks of that, he again asked for another challenge. He wanted to take part in a match, and face a real opponent.
"He wants to do everything a normal 13-year-old would do, and who am I to tell him he can't do that one day?" said his father.
During last week's game against Freedom Middle School, Jared's coach approached Freedom's coach to see if they could help make Jared's dream come true.
"He said we want to make this a very special night for Jared, so he asked me if I had a wrestler with a kind heart, a great kid who would understand the situation and take it seriously and know what to do," said Randy Stevens, who shares the same last name but is not related to Jared. "I said I have the perfect kid for this."
That kid was 12-year-old Justin Kievit.
Cell phone video of the match from Kievit's father and Jared's father shows Kievit shake Jared's hand before the match begins. Then, the two boys begin wrestling.
"I just went onto the ground and pulled him over myself, like his arm," said Justin.
When the referee announces Jared as the winner of the match, the crowd bursts into cheers and applause.
"It's good, because it gets the word out there, you can do anything you want," Jared said.
The video of the match has now gone viral on both YouTube and Facebook. It's been shared and viewed by nearly 100,000 people all over the country.
"I've gotten emails from people in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Mississippi, and New York," said Coach Stevens.
On Tuesday night, Jared wrestled his second match, and won his second match. This time, it was against 13-year-old Ritten Gross.
"That makes me feel really good," said Gross.
That win prompted the crowd to yell even louder.
"He was ecstatic," said Sandella. "He has been saying things like, I don't know if I deserve all this attention, and my response to him is that people are looking to you as an example."
Jared is actually a triplet, who got his first taste of wrestling while rough-housing with his brothers at home.
Next, he plans to try scuba diving, and he's not stopping there.
In fact, he's currently deciding whether he wants to pursue a career as a Navy Seal, or a coach of the Tennessee Titans.
To see the video of his win in its entirely, you can watch the video on Facebook or on YouTube.