Deaths among young athletes are rare, so when they do occur, they’re always stunningly tragic. Such was the case just days before Christmas when senior Austin Roberts of Spencer, Iowa, who had a 14-0 record, collapsed during the championship match of his school’s invitational on December 19th, 2015.
When Roberts collapsed, Estherville-Lincoln Central High School wrestler Ahmed Castro-Chavez was wrestling another opponent one mat over. At his team’s next meet after Christmas, he was supposed to wrestle Roberts, but had no one to compete against in his 220-pound weight class since Roberts passed away. (He had lost to Roberts earlier in the season.)
Though his team was trailing 22-3, and Castro-Chavez would receive 6 points because the other team couldn’t present an opponent, the young wrestler did something totally unexpected, causing many in the crowd dissolve into tears. Instead of accepting the easy win, Castro-Chavez left his warm-ups on and walked over to the bleachers where Austin Roberts’ mom, Lori Roberts (in boots in front row above), and his grandfather were seated. Amed told the Sioux City Journal, “I wanted to show Austin’s family respect because they are grieving. I told Austin’s mom that I wished I could wrestle Austin again because he was such a good wrestler.”
Then, he forfeited the match, giving Austin Roberts a posthumous victory. Spencer Daily Reporter columnist Nate Shaughnessy told the Sioux City Journal, “It’s not often hairs stand on the back of your neck at a high school sporting event…There are touchdowns and dunks and goals, but I’ve never felt anything quite like those few minutes in the Field House.”
As Amed shook hands with his late opponent’s grandfather, he said, “It was an honor to wrestle Austin.” The stunned crowd stood to their feet and cheered, awed, as we all should be, by the way this teenager from Iowa showed us that life—and even sports—is about so much more than wins, losses, and points on a scoreboard— and that acts of kindness will be remembered far longer than stats.
Here’s a rough video capturing the moment. If you follow the top of the screen you see Amed hugging Austin’s mother just before forfeiting the match:
Well done, Amed. And Godspeed, Austin.