January 31, 2016

In a Jan. 29 column about Norton High School wrestler Deven Schuko and his match against an opponent with Down syndrome, The Associated Press erroneously attributed a quote. The quote should have been attributed to Norton coach Pat Coleman, not Arnold.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Column: `Simple act of kindness' is really so much more

Column: A top-ranked Massachusetts high school wrestler provides a lesson for all athletes when he lets an opponent with Down syndrome pin him to the mat

By PAUL NEWBERRY

AP National Writer

Let's forget, for a moment, Blake Griffin doing his best impression of Muhammad Ali.

Put aside, for the time being, what sort of disguise Johnny Manziel is coming up with for his next night on the town.

Instead, let's give props to Deven Schuko, a high school wrestler you've probably never heard of but should get to know.

When Schuko let an opponent with Down syndrome pin him during a match, it showed a side of sports that too often gets overlooked amid all the foolishness.

''Just a simple act of kindness'' is how Deven describes it.

Here's hoping it spreads.

Maybe the next athlete who's getting ready to act the fool, or cut a few corners in pursuit of victory, or belittle someone who doesn't look or act like they do, will ask themselves: What would Deven do?

''A guy like Deven is a great role model,'' says Pat Coleman, the head wrestling coach at Norton High School, where Schuko is a senior and captain of one of the best teams in Massachusetts.

Two years ago, the Lancers won the state title in their classification. This season, they've got another strong squad led by Deven, a 145-pounder with only one loss out of 29 matches.

Well, actually, two out of 30.

Last weekend, during a meet that included Norton and three other schools, Schuko didn't have anyone to wrestle in his weight class when the Lancers faced their final opponent of the day. The coach of Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High wondered if anyone would be willing to face Andrew Howland, a 22-year-old wrestler on his team with special needs.

Deven jumped at the chance.

''He wanted a match, so I gave him one,'' Schuko says, the smile coming through even over the phone as he spoke Friday while taking a teacher-sanctioned break from class. ''He whipped my butt.''

Fortunately for the rest of us, the match was captured on video by a parent.

The two shook hands at the center of the mat, the whistle blew, and Howland quickly grabbed the back of Deven's head with his right hand. They tussled a bit before Schuko dropped to one knee, Andy wrapping his left arm around his opponent's neck. Howland then locked his other arm under Deven's armpit and they tumbled over together, Andy on top - a classic wrestling move known as the ''Bulldog.''

The referee dove in, checked to see if the shoulder blades were down, and slapped the mat to signal the pin.

''I don't think anybody went overboard with it,'' Coleman says. ''The guys from our team knew what was going on. They made Andy feel like a champion. He is a champion. They're both champions.''

It was all over in about 10 seconds.

The memories figure to last a lifetime.

''He was just happy, very happy,'' Schuko recalls. ''I shook his hand, and he was just laughing. The referee shook his hand, and he was just laughing. As he was walking off the mat ... our coach did a little flexing motion at him. Andy flexed back.''

Once the meet was over, Deven enjoyed the rest of the weekend. He didn't figure anyone would make much of the match.

When the video was posted to Facebook, however, it was quickly shared more than 5,000 times. Several local television stations picked up on this remarkable act of sportsmanship.

''It blew up,'' Schuko says. ''I can't believe it. I'm awe-struck. It was just a simple act of kindness, something that's so simple. But I hope Andy will remember it forever.''

Under Massachusetts high school rules, this is the last year Howland can wrestle at Dighton-Rehoboth. He's been with the program since it started five years ago, first coming out because he liked watching pro wrestling on television.

''He expressed that it wasn't like on TV,'' said his coach, Bruce Weaver, ''but he really got a kick out of it.''

Over the years, Andy worked hard within his limitations to learn the sport. He knows about a half-dozen pinning moves, according to Weaver, and really loves to use the Bulldog when he gets a chance.

More important, he's a full-fledged member of the squad, a captain who handles the coin toss before every meet.

''Whether Andy had Down or not, he shows the heart you want to see out of a wrestler,'' Weaver said.

At Norton, the wrestlers wear T-shirts with the phrase ''Pin Down Bullying'' splashed across the back.

For Coleman, that's another important message he hopes will spring from this memorable match.

''Our guys are prepared to stand up to anybody who is verbally or physically abusing somebody,'' the coach said.

Deven has won over 100 matches in his high school career, and he's the top-ranked wrestler in his weight division this season.

Both he and his team are hoping to capture state titles.

But he'll likely be defined by one of the rare matches he lost.

''I really didn't mind at all,'' Deven says. ''I just went out there, and it was Andy.''

A simple act of kindness?

Sure.

But let's hope it grows into much, much more.

---

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry.

---

The video can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/anthony.pucino.9/videos/1686983808245847/?pnref=story

You May Like