Passion Over Pity: Teen Wrestler With Down Syndrome Inspires | NECN
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Passion Over Pity: Teen Wrestler With Down Syndrome Inspires

Joining the Timberlane High School wrestling team has had a positive impact for Andrew Strzykalski, as well as his teammates

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    For Andrew Strzykalski, a 15-year-old with down syndrome from New Hampshire, joining the wrestling team has made a positive impact on his experience as a freshman at Timberlane High School while his perseverence has inspired his teammates. (Published Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015)

    A powerhouse wrestling team in Plaistow, New Hampshire. is on its way to yet another state championship, but this season's journey has been different than the rest.

    The wrestlers at Timberlane High School are learning lessons that will last a lifetime, thanks to one for their freshman teammates.

    During the second period English class on Thursday morning, there's a good chance 15-year-old Andrew Strzykalski was still thinking about Wednesday night. It was Timberlane Wrestling's final home meet and the last time this season that Andrew would take the mat.

    Strzykalski was diagnosed with down syndrome before he was even born, and his mom, Barbara, admits, at times, it's been a struggle.

    "He was at the principal's office, he was not participating in classes, he was withdrawn, the list goes on," Barbara Strzykalski said.

    But everything changed when he became a Timberlane wrestler.

    "It's important to me," Andrew Strzykalski told NECN.

    "His schoolwork has improved. Wrestling has turned around his experience here as a freshman," his mom said.

    The Owls have been state champions for the past 15 years, but coach Tim Brown says they've never had a season quite like this.

    "The camaraderie and brotherhood you can have spending time like this, you get to experience on different level when you have someone like Andrew," Brown said.

    Andrew Strzykalski is someone who, despite his differences, perseveres - someone who chooses his passion over pity, and who inspires an entire team to be better than they were yesterday.

    "Before practice the other day, he said, 'C'mon let's wrestle, I want to get better,'" explained his teammate Brian Lonergan.

    "Seeing that smile on his face when he gets his hand raised is my motivation," said another teammate, Cam Altobelli.

    Barbara Strzykalski says those moments of victory wouldn't be possible without the kindness and patience of his teammates and coaches. - people like Nate Lawrence, who not only support Andrew on the mat, but also in the classroom.

    "It's amazing, we feel very proud and very lucky to have this a part of his life," Barbara Strzykalski said.

    Andrew Strzykalski's story is proof that teamwork can change lives, and that one life can change many.

    "He's kind of a role model for me, I try to do the same thing," Altobelli said.

    Barbara Strzykalski says Andrew wants to do everything like his older brother. So Andrew has a black belt in karate and he plays the guitar.

    When NECN asked Andrew Strzykalski if he would be on the wrestling team again next season, he said, "No doubt, I'm not 100 percent sure, I'm 1,000 percent sure."

    The Owls won Wednesday's meet 31-30 against Londonderry.

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