BRYANT BLOG A visit for recovery

By Jason Bryant | Oct. 06, 2010, 12:27 p.m. (ET)
Bill Zadick and coaches Chad Tunick and Chad Benshoof with Travis Taylor at the Olympic Training Center on Friday.

Travis Taylor was a three-time state finalist in Iowa. The 20-year-old had just completed a 40-mile bike-ride this summer and headed towards a friend's above-ground swimming pool for a quick cool down.

When Taylor jumped in ... he didn't come back up.

The fact Taylor's even alive right now is nothing short of a miracle. The fact Taylor can even move his arms could be viewed as even more astounding.

"Most people when they break their C5 have no arms, no shoulders," Taylor explained on Friday to USA Wrestling's Developmental Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick.

Taylor broke his neck, and according to his high school coaches, died twice. As Taylor sat in a wheelchair at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on Friday talking to Zadick, Chad Tunick and Chad Benshoof spoke softly about Travis' accident.

"He basically drowned," Benshoof told me, as he was watching Taylor and Zadick interact.

Freak accidents happen, but they shouldn't happen to kids like Travis Taylor. How we came to know the story of this young man is nothing more than chance, really.

As the Coordinator of Social Media for USA Wrestling (that's the short version of my title), I've tended to accept friend requests from pretty much anyone on Facebook. Months ago, Benshoof added me as a friend and I really didn't think much of it. A few chat messages here and there was about it.

Then, August 17, Chad sent me a note on Facebook that changed some things.

He told me the story of Taylor's accident and how he was nearby in Colorado -- at Craig Hospital in Englewood, a suburb of Denver which specializes in spinal cord injuries.

Chad simply asked for something like a letter of encouragement. I think we did one better.

On Friday, the Chads would take Taylor down to the OTC for a tour. That morning, I'd presented Taylor with a signed singlet with autographs from most of the 2010 World Team, comedian Greg Warren and seven or eight World & Olympic medalists. I can't remember exactly who is on the singlet, because I started collecting signatures for it back in August during the Living The Dream telethon.

Dan Gable, Terry Brands, Bill Zadick, Zeke Jones, Brandon Slay, Steve Fraser, Momir Petkovic -- along with other medalists Royce Alger, Tatiana Padilla, Elena Pirozhkova and Jake Herbert -- contributed their signatures to the Taylor Get Well effort.

It's really hard to grasp the importance of simple things. Chad Benshoof asked for something on behalf of one of his former wrestlers. Without question, we'd honor that request -- I just didn't think it'd have such an impact.

Taylor's face lit up ... "Awesome," he said when I presented him the singlet. This moment is about him, not about what we're doing for him.

When his therapy ended, he fought traffic with Tunick and Benshoof down to Colorado Springs, which on a Friday, isn't exactly a treat from the middle of the Denver-area 'burbs.

With practices long over, Zadick gave Taylor some USA gear, much to the approval of the 20-year old. With Taylor in Craig Hospital for another few weeks, Zadick and Taylor traded numbers.

We'll make sure Travis gets back down to the OTC to see some wrestling practice. Maybe even pick up some more shwag. Terry Brands has also been active in helping motivate Taylor's recovery.

Taylor's explained how Brands got him some autographed Iowa gear.

Taylor wants to walk again. He's made progress, but still struggles with grip and functionality of his arms. It's awkward to try to shake someone's hand, when they don't have that functional ability to grip. It's no big deal for Taylor. He looks at it as a challenge.

We can talk about wrestling and the tools it gives you. The ability to fight and be resilient, etc., but I'm not about to make Travis out to be some victory slogan for the sport of wrestling. Travis is a very likable young man struggling to battle to recapture his own body. There's no denying that wrestling has connected Travis to many people who can help his road to recovery and support him in his fight to not only use all of his limbs fully again, but to walk.

Travis' resiliency was innate. His fight is infectious and his support system is great. All things that he'll need to recover. We hope the best for him. He's changed my outlook on things, too.

If you want to send some well wishes along, contact Travis below
Craig Hospital
c/o Travis Taylor
2 East
3425 South Clarkson Street
Englewood, CO 80113