Sightless Arlington wrestler falls match short of goal, but remains an inspiration | 4A Wrestling
Shawn Berg fell short in his quest of winning at medal at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament, going 1-2 at 160 pounds with a 1-0 loss in his final match.
Seattle Times staff reporter
TACOMA — Shawn Berg left the Tacoma Dome with regrets Friday night.
Most everyone else at Mat Classic XXIV watched him with respect.
Berg fell short in his quest of winning at medal at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament, going 1-2 at 160 pounds with a 1-0 loss in his final match. But in the eyes of many, the Arlington senior is a champion.
Berg is 100 percent blind in his right eye and 95 percent blind in his left. He lost his sight at age 4 ½ due to a benign tumor that still has to be monitored regularly with MRIs.
Among his biggest admirers is teammate Bryce McPherson, who remained unbeaten and advanced to the semifinals at 195.
"I've always looked up to him and everything he's done," McPherson said. "I close my eyes and I can't even walk straight."
But Berg doesn't think there's anything special about what he's accomplished.
"I get a lot of people who come up to me and say, 'Wow, it's so great what you're able to do,' " he said. "I appreciate all of their comments, but I'm just doing what everybody else is doing. It's just that I can't see. It's no different."
Berg, 17, is treated like any other wrestler in most regards. The only rule change is that opponents must keep contact with him at all times. His father, Darryl, is an assistant coach and a voice Shawn can always pick up during any match.
"He can hear me no matter what," Darryl said.
Darryl, a former wrestler, said he steered Shawn toward the sport soon after he lost his sight.
"It's a sport I definitely knew he could do," Darryl said. "You don't have to see to be able to wrestle. It's a contact sport.
Shawn attends regular classes at Arlington and carries a grade-point average close to 3.9.
"He inspires me," Darryl said. "I'm his biggest fan. There's not that many kids who have been through what he's been through. He's made me a better father, a better man, a better husband. It makes me look at life differently."
Shawn doesn't like limits.
"He thinks he can do anything," Darryl said. "He wants to drive a car so bad."
Shawn wanted a top-eight finish at state, but fell one match short.
"I'll have regrets," he said. "Everybody has regrets in sports. But like coaches say, it's not about wrestling. It's about life. This teaches you work ethic and going beyond what you think you can do."
And Shawn Berg figures he can pretty much do anything.
• Second-ranked Tahoma is in position to win its first 4A team title. The Bears advanced seven to Saturday's semifinals and have three other wrestlers assured of top-eight finishes. No. 1 Mead of Spokane also sent seven to the semis, but has only one other wrestler alive.
"We're about where we need to be right now," Tahoma coach Chris Feist said.
Among Tahoma's semifinalists is Joey Palmer (132), who won at 125 last season for Rogers of Puyallup. Steven Hopkins, who won at 103 as a sophomore, said he is looking forward to his 126-pound semifinal match against Colton Orrino from Central Valley, who upset him last year in the 119-pound semis.
• Woodinville has a pair of semifinalists in Ryan Christensen (160) and Jake Hollister (220).
• Arian Carpio pinned her first two opponents at 106 to remain unbeaten. She'll face Newport's Julie Norvell, who also pinned her way into the semis. Katrynia Todd from Auburn still has a chance for a second straight title. She's in the 137-pound semifinals after winning at 140 last year. Mount Baker leads the tight girls team competition with 38 points, followed by Kelso (37) and Sedro-Woolley (36).