Penn-Traford wrestler shows courage on, off mat battling cerebral palsy
Tyler Hadad isn't likely to win many more wrestling matches, though he's determined to keep trying.
For Hadad, who has spastic cerebral palsy, it's much more about the courage to compete in a demanding sport that many other athletes avoid.
“I love wrestling. It's something I've been able to do all my life. It keeps me going,” said the Penn-Trafford junior, who competes at 126 pounds. “If I didn't wrestle, I'd become lazy.”
When Hadad was 2, he was diagnosed with the crippling disease that causes muscle tightness in the body. It took five surgeries to help him walk.
“Doctors told me the surgeries on his legs were similar to those of a bad vehicle accident,” Tyler's father, Joe Hadad, said. “It's unreal to see what he's gone through. It's not about winning or losing with Tyler. It's about competing.”
Tyler's younger brother Brenden, a sophomore wrestler at Penn-Trafford, insisted their dad doesn't treat the brothers differently.
“Wrestling is something that Tyler wanted to try and liked,” Joe Hadad said. “When he first started wrestling at 6, we'd carry him to the mat and he started on his knees. Now he's able to walk and he can start the match from a standing position.
“I inquired about Special Olympics, but Tyler didn't want it. He wanted to compete with his friends.”
Tyler Hadad won his first varsity match of the 2013-14 season at the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association tournament Jan. 10 with a 17-0 technical fall against Joshua Smail of Jeannette.
Though a pair of losses followed, dropping his record to 1-8, Hadad has made an impression on wrestling fans.
He was 2-4 in limited action during the 2012-13 season.
“I remember we took him to a big (Junior Olympics) tournament, and when he won, everyone in the stands gave him a standing ovation,” Joe Hadad said. “It was a memorable night. Everybody around wrestling knows who he is.”
Penn-Trafford athletic trainer Larry Cooper told Tyler that he was his hero when he saw Tyler wrestle during his eighth-grade season.
“That meant a lot to me to hear that from Mr. Cooper,” Tyler said. “He told me that was because of my mental toughness and work ethic. He's a great trainer.”
Warriors coach Rich Ginther said, too, that Tyler has been a great inspiration to everyone else on the team.
“He does all the drills and never backs away from a challenge,” Ginther said. “The only thing he didn't participate in with the team was running the stadium steps during preseason workouts. Instead, he ran the hill next to the stands for his workout.”
Tyler said because of his condition, his balance isn't always good.
The elder Hadad, a former wrestler at Norwin, is proud of his son's desire to participate in a sport he said makes you “physically and mentally tough.”
He said, in fact, that the entire Penn-Trafford team is a special group.
“It's wild,” Joe Hadad said. “All the team members are like brothers on and off the mat. Being on the team helps Tyler.”
Tyler Hadad doesn't expect his opponents to go easy on him, and he wants to make them pay for it if they do.
“When they let up and then I take them down, the look on their face is amazing,” Tyler said. “They're shocked.”
Said Brenden: “Tyler has great upper-body strength. He has a great tilt. That's how he scores a lot of his points. I don't let him get it on me when we practice.”
Tyler believes wrestling can keep him in good shape, and he doesn't intend to become inactive any time soon.
“I never back down from challenges or hard work,” he said. “I just keep pushing myself.”
To most, that's what makes Tyler Hadad a winner.