Hasaan HawthorneThen there's Hasaan Hawthorne. The senior from Pelham High School won the Class 6A 145-pound title -- and Outstanding Wrestler honors -- at the 2016 Alabama State Wrestling Championships in Huntsville despite being a double amputee.
Hawthorne scored a come-from-behind victory over Southside-Gadsden senior Landon Thompson to complete a perfect 37-0 season.
Thompson led 1-0 early in the first period, but was not able to maintain the lead as Hawthorne took advantage of his long reach and leverage to outpoint Thompson 6-2 in over the final two periods. It was the second time Thompson was a finalist, having placed second at 132 last year. Hawthorne came in third at 160 in 2015.
What was Hawthorne's secret to success? "I just worked hard in practice to get ready," said the newly crowned champ. "Landon is pretty tough, he's a good wrestler."
Thompson's coach explained the challenges of wrestling Hawthorne.
"It's tough because (Hawthorne) wrestles like that all the time and we don't get to see it," Southside coach Kyle Routon told AL.com. "He's so long and would be about 6-foot-3 or 6-4 and we were just trying to protect our lead leg because his arms are so long. His reach was a huge difference, I mean the only way you can attack him is by dragging or with a front leg lock. He's just so tough."
"As one of the state's best wrestlers, Hawthorne has yet this season to give up his back," wrote Gary Estwick of AL.com on Feb. 17. "He's undefeated (33-0) heading into this week's AHSAA Wrestling Championships, thanks to a speedy and smooth ankle pick and wrist control likened to an anaconda's squeeze. Hawthorne is Class 6A's No. 1 seed at 145 pounds."
All this is even more impressive, given that Hawthorne was born with tibias in his leg. His fibulas formed without muscles and nerves, which led to two different amputations -- the first before he was three months old -- and left Hawthorne with nothing below his knees. When he's on the mat, he wrestles on what's left of his upper legs. Off the mat, he uses prosthetic limbs attached to what he refers to as his "nubs".
Hasaan Hawthorne grew up with parents who encouraged him to be active. He was roughhousing with his dad and male babysitters even at early age. He was a huge fan of WWE and ESPN SportsCenter, becoming obsessed about sports, according to his folks. He started playing baseball at age 8, later trying football but not liking to be at the bottom of a pile of tacklers. As a sixth grader, he was introduced to middle-school wrestling ... and found his sport.
In a profile of Hawthorne published in USA Today on Friday -- the day before the Alabama state wrestling championship finals -- Cam Smith wrote, "On Thursday he cruised through the quarterfinals, getting him within two victories of his ultimate goal: A state title and spot in the state record books, for good. For his part, Hawthrone is convinced a victorious campaign could help earn attention from college coaches and help him land a spot on a collegiate squad."
"I've got to win, got to," Hawthorne told AL.com prior to the state finals. "I don't think I've made a name for myself on the national level yet ... I still feel like I have unfinished business to do."
Now that he's achieved a state title -- and coverage in the national media -- Hawthorne told AL.com Saturday, "I plan to go to nationals and then on to college, but I don't know where yet."
Want to know more about wrestlers who overcame physical challenges to find success on the mat? Check out InterMat's 2011 feature "Opportunity for All" which profiled, among others, Anthony Robles, 2011 NCAA champ for Arizona State despite being born without his right leg ... and Nick Ackerman, 2001 NCAA Division III champ for Simpson College who, like Hawthorne, is a double-leg amputee.