by Andrew McCulloch
Eagle Editorial Board
Freshman William Sage is one of the newest members of the St. Thomas wrestling squad. However, Sage is not your typical freshman.
Sage lost his left leg as young child after a battle with a deadly infection.
“When I was really little, I got some unknown viral infection in my heart. I had an extremely high fever and heart rate. I was in the ICU for weeks and was nearly comatose for 12-18 months,” Sage said.
“The disease was restricting blood flow to a lot of my body. One of the reasons they had to cut [my leg] off was because of the restricted blood flow. The growth plate in my left leg was messed up, so I would’ve had one really shot, deformed leg.
Sage has used a prosthetic leg ever since and has grown accustomed to it. He even started on his varsity football team at St. Vincent de Paul. But wrestling presents a new challenge.
Sage has to wrestle without his prosthetic leg, which presents some large obstacles for the freshman.
“I had to adapt to everything when they taught everyone else the moves, since they all do it with two legs,” Sage said. “But Coach Durning will help adjust what they’re teaching to me specifically and then I’ll work against someone else.”
In addition to having to adapt his training techniques, Sage is faced with another major challenge: balance.
Wrestling is a sport that requires flawless footwork and expert balance. The slightest slip can easily send a wrestler to the matt and mark the end of his match.
With only one leg to use for support and stability, maintaining his balance can be a difficult task. However, Sage has found his way around this particular obstacle.
“I can really only go one way because I can’t do much with my left side,” Sage said. “But I’m picking the moves up pretty well. I’m a quick learner.”
But Sage’s disability is not as big of a detriment as it may seem. In fact, in many ways, his disadvantage is actually an enormous advantage.
Sage may only be able to attack his opponents from one side, but he actually gains a leg up in his training and practice.
Since he only has to practice going to one side, Sage is able to learn the same amount in half the time, an invaluable advantage for a beginning wrestler.
Sage also noted another major advantage he holds over his counterparts.
“Without my leg on, I weigh about 125 pounds when I’m actually 140 with it,” Sage said. “This way, I’m able to go against guys that are smaller than me and I can pin them pretty easily. I think my weight advantage mostly cancels out only being able to go to one side.”
Sage sees no reason to let his disability hold him back from success. He is determined to overcome the challenges that wrestling presents him, much like his role model.
“If someone told me I could never wrestle as well as everyone else, I would point to Anthony Robles from Arizona State. He wrestled with one leg and ended up winning the NCAA championship in 2011,” Sage said.
Much like Sage, Robles did not take up wrestling until the age of 14 and faced great struggles at the beginning of his career.
As a high school freshman, Robles won only five matches and finished the season ranked as the last place wrestler in his hometown of Mesa, Arizona. However, Robles persevered and used his unusually low center of gravity to drastically improve his game.
Robles went on to go 96-0 in his junior and senior years and ultimately won a national championship his senior season. He ended his high school career with a 129-15 overall record.
Robles continued his dominance at the collegiate level as well, winning a national championship during his senior year at Arizona State.
Robles’s story proves that the sky is the limit for the young Sage, and Sage is buying into that belief.
“My goal is to win,” Sage said. “I don’t think anyone likes losing.”
Sage’s story is as captivating and as inspirational you are likely to find, but he does not see a reason anyone should view him differently because of it.
“I’m still just a normal 14 year old boy who still wants to do normal stuff.”