BOONE — Nathanial Brown was following in his younger brother’s footsteps when he signed a letter of intent with the Appalachian State wrestling team.
Brown, a 15-year old student at Ashe County High School, signed the letter with the Mountaineers through the Team IMPACT Draft Day celebration. Team IMPACT, which is based in Massachusetts, connects children with chronic illnesses to college athletic teams.
Brown has cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
At Appalachian State, the wrestling program staged a signing, but it does have its privileges. Brown, who wrestles at Ashe County in the 126-pound class, will be allowed to sit on the Mountaineers’ bench during any match and is allowed to attend Mountaineers’ practices.
“I think it’s important for our team to be involved in our community,” App State wrestling coach JohnMark Bentley said. “Any time we have an opportunity to make an impact not only on Nathanial’s life but hopefully it makes an impact on one of our wrestler’s life. It will be great for everyone involved and we want to be more involved in the future in our community and teach our guys that it’s not always just about wrestling.”
Brown’s 12-year-old brother, Jacob Brown, signed a similar letter with the Appalachian State men’s soccer team in August.
As the men’s soccer team was there for Jacob’s signing, the wrestling team was there for Nathanial’s.
Nathanial Brown said wrestling is his favorite sport and has been wrestling since he was much younger. He said his favorite move is to work on an opponent from the top position and build riding time, which can be critical to a victory in a close match.
“I’ve always liked it and just kept going with it,” he said. “I’ve been to a few matches.”
Bentley reminded Brown at the signing that the Mountaineers have won four straight Southern Conference championships and expect to win a fifth.
“So we’re excited about that,” Bentley said.
Jason Brown, Nathanial’s father, explained what his son is up against with cystic fibrosis.
“With cystic fibrosis, he’s on a high-fat, high-calorie salt intake, so he’s totally different from most wrestlers,” Jason Brown said. “Cystic fibrosis affects the lungs, the pancreas, the digestive system. Everybody has mucus in their lungs and his has thickened because of the cystic fibrosis. He has to have chest therapy three times a day to loosen that mucus up.”
Brown also said it affects the pancreas, which secretes enzymes to digest food. Nathanial Brown needs medication to help fortify those enzymes that his body doesn’t naturally produce.
Brown was also given some t-shirts and a couple of hats. Jacob Brown said his son is a “typical kid” who likes video games and Marvel movies and wrestling.