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High school wrestler embraced by community

SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Jordan High's Alex Maughan was born with Down Syndrome, but is on the wrestling team and has been embraced by the entire community.
SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - This is a story of acceptance, of sportsmanship and of triumph.

Alex Maughan was born with Down Syndrome. Now, a 16-year-old sophomore at Jordan High School, his mother was looking for a physical outlet for her growing son.

"He's too big to wrestle me," Natalie Maughan said. "It's not appropriate for him to wrestle just anybody. So, I e-mailed the coach and could he possibly earn coming to a class."

The coach one-upped Natalie and invited her son to join the team.

"We told her to bring him out," assistant coach Brenton Ing recalled.

"The coach called me and asked if he could be on the team," Natalie said. "I laughed and said no because he knows nothing about wrestling. The coach said that's what practice is for."

Alex was welcomed onto the Jordan High team with open arms. Teammates took to him immediately as Alex boosted the morale of the team with his warm personality.

"When he first came in, we thought it was awesome," said teammate Wayne Austin. "You don't see things like that very often. Having Alex in here is an awesome experience. He's fun, he's great to work with, he works hard in practice. He's a good kid."

"You'll have an intense practice, and he'll do one of his poses or one of his funny comments," said Ing. "It just breaks up the monotony of practicing in a room with no windows, grinding for hours on end."

The truly amazing part of this story happens during the meets. Opposing teams volunteer a wrestler to grapple with Alex. The match does not count towards the overall score of the meet, but while it does get physical, the opponent lets Alex pin him so he can taste the sweet thrill of victory. So far, Alex is undefeated.

"Obviously, his opponents have all bought in," said Ing. "We don't meet a school that isn't willing to do it with us."

"I just think it's kind of a special experience to wrestle someone like that," said Alex's latest victim, Alta High's Austin Davis. "He's actually pretty good. I was surprised. I didn't think he was going to be that good, but he took me down a couple times on his own, so I was surprised."

Asked if he was tired after the match, Alex said, "Nope. I'm willing to do it again, I promise."

This was Alex's last meet of the season. But he hopes to continue his wrestling career as a junior and senior on the varsity squad.

"Here they are, these big macho guys who come across like they're going to take you down," Natalie said. "And they cheer and they give him high fives. It's fun to see the camaraderie. They've become a big family to us."

To see this kind of sportsmanship and acceptance gives you hope for a generation that many people have given up on.

"Everyone says today's generation is lazy and all about video games," said Ing. "But our kids have done nothing but embrace him. The character that they'll build from this in their lives and in their future will be unlike any other."




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