January 31, 2011
Wrestling with Perception
Lake Erie College student inspires through his sport
Transitioning to collegiate sports can be a challenge, physically, mentally and emotionally for the best athletes. Though for Justin Toth, a 2009 Riverside High School graduate and now sophomore at Lake Erie College, wrestling in the 125lb class and becoming the first-ever LEC athlete with a prosthesis is just business as usual for this quiet, middle childhood education major.
While in utero, umbilical cord complications prevented circulation to Toth’s leg and forced doctors to amputate. He was fitted for a prosthetic leg at six months and at 11 months was able to walk. “I never saw myself as different, and apparently no one else did either,” said Toth. He receives checkups every six to eight months and a new prosthesis every two years.
Toth discovered wrestling, baseball and football in seventh grade. It was at Riverside that he began wrestling without his prosthesis, causing others to become hesitant, though he quickly found it to work in his favor; he would use upper-body strength when his opponents thought he’d use his lower body. He placed fifth in the Division I State tournament at Riverside, finishing with an overall record of 104-32.
“My biggest advantage against my opponents is wrestling without my prosthesis; they are cautious and don’t know what to expect,” said Toth.
Preparing for competitions isn’t much different from the way other wrestlers train. Extensive running makes his leg sore, but he participates in regular workouts and conditioning practices with the team.
“At the first home match at Lake Erie, nobody knew who I was. I was nervous but I just went out there and did what I know how to do, which is wrestle,” said Toth.
Lake Erie College Head Wrestling Coach, Kevin Hoogenboom, believes Toth is a hardworking young man with the ability to give his teammates an intense amount of motivation. “He doesn’t use his disability as an excuse, he shows it as an advantage,” said Hoogenboom. “He does a lot of things that work for him and presents his opponents with a different look.”
Toth owes much of his success primarily to his uncle and other family members, also wrestlers. In December 2010, Toth contributed to the Storm’s 38-12 victory over Baldwin-Wallace College as he earned his first dual win against Yellow Jackets wrestler Tyler Erwin. Focusing on the bigger picture, Toth believes he can set the bar high for the rest of the wrestling season. These goals include an above .500 record, becoming a starting wrestler, taking top four in regionals and earning his way toward nationals.