Wrestling is known for the toll it takes on its participants. Practices are a taxing affair, tournaments are day- or weekend-long feats of endurance, and there’s the constant struggle to keep weight.
Now imagine trying to handle that all while dealing with diabetes.
That’s been the reality of Cashmere’s Trevor Mashburn and Eastmont’s Taran Melton throughout their high school careers. The two seniors have type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, a genetic form of the metabolic disorder that requires meticulous management of blood-sugar levels.
Mashburn and Melton have played other sports — football and baseball for Mashburn, and football for Melton — but wrestling is an entirely different animal when it comes to diabetes.
During some winter mornings, Mashburn has difficulty waking up because he’s suffered a seizure.
It’s not easy for his mother, Meegan, to enter his bedroom and repeatedly jostle her son in order for him to awaken and rise out of bed, but of course she knows that it’s something that must be done.
For Trevor, who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was 6 years old, the occasional morning seizures come as a result of the changes that he puts his body through in order to participate as a member of the Cashmere wrestling team.
“It’s an annual event during the first few weeks of wrestling season,” said Trevor’s father, Bill. “(Wrestling) is a shock to his body because his conditioning routines and diet are different. The seizures come as a result when his blood sugar gets too low, and we can’t get him to wake up.
“His mom,” he concluded, with a hint of wistfulness, “has to wrestle him.”
Like Mashburn, Melton’s diabetes were discovered during his first-grade year. A cold triggered the symptoms, landing him in the hospital for a week.
Everything changed for him after that moment.
“I had to go over to the main office (at school) for every meal, I had to sit out things for low blood sugar. It made me feel different sometimes,” Melton said.
The disease didn’t deter Melton, however. He started wrestling the next school year, and by sixth grade he was administering his own insulin shots and finger pokes.
“The kid is pretty cool,” Eastmont wrestling coach Ken Hoyt said of Melton. “He’s had his little life battles, but he’s never let that get to him.”
Melton had his struggles early on in high school athletics, but he credits Hoyt and Eastmont football coach Doug McGill for being helpful and understanding of his situation.
Even with all he’s learned about how to manage his diabetes, Melton said every tournament poses a challenge.
“(Tournaments) actually are hard. If it’s an away tournament, we leave around 4 (a.m.), so I have to pack two 6 o’clock shots. That keeps my blood sugar balanced for the day, and I pack a Hot Pocket or something for later on.”
Though Melton has never been a superstar wrestler, Hoyt called him one of his favorite students to come through the Wildcats’ program because of his positive influence.
“He’s a one-in-a-million kid,” Hoyt said. “He gets the big picture. How he acts, how he practices … he gets it.”
Mashburn has seen his share of success — he advanced to the Mat Classic in each of the past three years and is looking for a fourth trip this season. Heading into last weekend’s district tournament, Mashburn had a 27-4 record and was fifth in the state 1A 138-pound division, according to the latest rankings on washingtonwrestlingreport.com.
Trevor, who declined to be interviewed for this story, wants to be known as a great athlete, not a great diabetic athlete, his father said.
“He’s a competitive kid,” Bill said of his son, who will attend Washington State University in the fall. “He feels as if he’s worked too hard to get to where he’s at for somebody to put an asterisk by it. He wants to see what he can do and how far he can go. He has indicated that he does not want to be labeled.”
When Trevor was younger, he didn’t want other people to know that he had diabetes. But as he grew older, he became more accepting of his condition, and found strength and inspiration in the actions of former Gonzaga University and National Basketball Association player Adam Morrison. Trevor cut out a picture from a Sports Illustrated issue that featured Morrison injecting himself with insulin during a game and posted it on the family’s refrigerator. The picture stayed there for years.
“He’s opened up with it,” Bill said. “He doesn’t hide it anymore. He won’t go into a separate room to test his blood sugar or anything like that. (Morrison) was a good driver for him early; Trevor even wrote a letter to him. When Trevor saw that picture (of Morrison), he thought, ‘He’s not even embarrassed (to inject himself) in front of 20,000 people.’ Adam’s quote was, ‘I have never said that I can’t bust my butt because I have diabetes,’ and Trevor took that to heart.”
As far as anybody else is concerned, the only thing that separates Trevor Mashburn from anybody else around him is his unique wrestling talents.
“He’s essentially like any other kid,” Bill said. “The biggest thing for him going into a match is that he needs to be where he needs to be with his blood sugar. He’s had tournaments earlier in his career where he’d start strong and completely fall apart at the end. It would be like two different wrestlers out there, and that was because of the blood sugar.
“But (his opponents) don’t know about (his condition). They have no clue. He’s just another wrestler on the mat.”
Melton shares the aspiration to be like any other athlete with Masburn, though he’s had to endure countless questions from curious teammates.
“Some of them ask if there’s anything they could do to help, but I say, ‘I got this under control,’ ” he said. “Some of them ask certain questions — ‘Does it effect you?’ But it’s kinda cool that they have so many questions.”
“His illness hampers him, but he took it to heart to not show weakness on mat day,” Hoyt said.