The Heart Of A Champion

Kyle Maynard is an amazing athlete who has overcome incredible obstacles.

He's also proof that you can accomplish anything, if you're willing to work hard enough.

There is no way to measure the heart of a champion.

"Wrestling is my passion," says Kyle Maynard. "I love every single teeth-gnashing second of it."

And Kyle Maynard has always defined himself in his own terms, defying expectations his entire life.

He says, "I want to be a national champion in wrestling. I want to be an ultimate fighting champion. I want to break the world's strongest teen title."

Through sheer force of spirit, everyone Kyle Maynard meets accepts him for who he is.

He was born with a rare condition called congenital amputation or shortened limbs.

"It's the only way I've known; I've been born like this. It's a congenital birth defect so it's the only way that I know," he says. "And there's no way to really beat around the bush, disability, handicap, all these different words, it doesn't matter. I'm gonna succeed, no matter what the barrier is."

Kyle Maynard's parents built a strong foundation for his tiny body from the day he was born, raising him just like any other child.

Scott Maynard says, "One of the things that we've tried to do with Kyle is to focus on what he can do, and focus on his abilities as opposed to his disabilities." Anita Maynard adds, "And not what he can't do."

Kyle Maynard was especially close to his grandparents.

His grandfather, Norm Whisler, remembers the first time he saw Kyle. "We sat there (starts crying) in the rocking chair for an hour or so."

Grandmother Betty Whisler adds, "I can remember when I first saw him. I took him, and laid him on the bed and opened up the blanket so I could look at him. And I kissed each little arm and each little foot and leg, and said 'Kyle, I love you already.'"

Kyle Maynard tried artificial arms and legs - but they just got in the way. He had better ideas about how to use what he was given.

"He's tough; he was a tough little kid," his mom notes.

So tough, in fact, that Kyle Maynard played nose tackle on his sixth-grade football team.

He gave wrestling a whirl the same year. From his first match, Kyle Maynard showed courage and willpower, but it took time to develop his talent. In fact, he lost a heartwrenching 35 times in a row before he ever won a match.

Kyle Maynard says, "I kept one goal, which was to never be pinned, and I still haven't been pinned to this day. I think as long as I maintained and held onto that, then I wasn't able to lose sight of what I wanted to do ultimately, which was to dominate kids on the wrestling mat."

He steadily improved and in his senior year of high school, Kyle Maynard finally made the varsity wrestling team, becoming a feared opponent - thanks in part to a coach who believed in him.

Coach Cliff Ramos says, "He was for real; he won 35 matches; he beat state champions from two other states. Coaches are supposed to inspire athletes, well he inspired me every day."

Now Kyle Maynard wrestles for the University of Georgia, pushing his teammates to work harder.

Teammate Anthony DiCarlo says, "Just the fact that he's out here is incredible, but the fact that he's winning matches and stuff is just beyond me, really. You gotta have a lot of respect for somebody like that."

Christopher McDaniel adds, "He doesn't even have the hands but he has the grip. I thought my knee was about to pop so I was praying for that whistle to blow."

In a breakthrough year, Kyle Maynard won the Espy award this summer as the nation's top disabled athlete, modeled for Vanity Fair and Abercrombie & Fitch, and appeared on national television.

His father says, "Kyle has just this innate ability to impact people, and I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said, 'He's changed my life.'"

Kyle Maynard is now living his other dream, traveling across the country as a motivational speaker.

He says, "The people that remain positive in tougher situations than I'll ever face, that's who I draw inspiration from."

In the end, what makes him different isn't his body; it's his heart.

Asked if he ever thinks why him, he says, ""Not really. I think I've been given a tremendous blessing, being able to try to help people, and I think that's what I'm gonna try to do throughout the rest of my life."

Maynard has also set an unofficial record as the world's strongest teen. He'll try to set the official record in March.
  • Tatiana Morales

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