Feb. 5, 1997

Purdue Wrestlers Try to "Take Down" Cystic Fibrosis

By Angie Renninger

On the mats of a room clad in gold and black with the smell of fierce competition still lingering in the air, the Purdue University wrestling team sits intently listening to a young lady describe a great opponent that she battles every day. The young lady is Jaime Metzinger. The opponent is Cystic Fibrosis.

Metzinger, who is afflicted with the disease that affects nearly 30,000 children and young adults, recently spoke to the team in conjunction with a fundraising event sponsored by the Purdue wrestlers. Members of the team are collecting pledges for the number of individual takedowns during the match on Feb. 8 against Eastern Michigan to donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Metzinger, a freshman at Benton Central High School, will serve as an honorary captain for the Boilermakers at the meet.

According to assistant wrestling coach Scott Hinkel, inviting Metzinger to be a part of the fundraiser serves several purposes, most important of which is giving the team members a personal connection to the event. "I think there's a real sense of gratification there in terms of knowing that they have a personal link. Instead of thinking, 'Oh, we're doing this for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation,' it now becomes much more personal."

Cystic Fibrosis is the most common fatal genetic disease in the United States and is a disease that occurs at birth. The body produces an abnormally thick, sticky mucus which clogs the lungs and leads to infections. Sufferers of the disease continually try to free their lungs of the mucus.

While speaking to the wrestlers, Metzinger demonstrated some of the daily routines she goes through to try to keep the mucus at a minimum. She used her former teacher, who helped set up this meeting, as a model to point out some of the areas of the lungs where treatment occurs. Her teacher, David Hinkel, is the brother of Scott Hinkle, and helped give him the idea for donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

During the 1995 season the Boilermaker wrestlers held a similar fundraiser for Allison Jackson, a two year-old with a childhood kidney cancer called Wilm's tumor. Scott knew he wanted to do a similar service project and in talking with his brother determined this year's cause. David mentioned to Scott that he participated in a fundraiser for a student in his class. Scott followed up on that, checking to see if the family needed financial assistance, but learned that the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation would be the best place to donate the money.

"I think this will increase public awareness for the foundation because a lot of people come to the Purdue games," said Metzinger. "The foundation really hasn't had a lot of publicity, and I think this will help a lot."

Scott thinks the benefits of the fundraiser is two-fold. "We have a foundation we can help like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and now we have a girl that we have a little personal tie to."

And after Metzinger's visit with the team, the personal aspect and the reality of the disease came to life. "When you see it face to face it gives you a little different perspective on it," said Willie Wineberg, a sophomore on the Boilermaker squad. "When you just hear the name of a disease you really don't think of the person or people. Something like this just kind of opens your eyes that there are people who have it and what they have to go through."

Metzinger shared with the wrestlers how her own athletic endeavors are cut back because of Cystic Fibrosis. "It restricts you a lot. It causes the oxygen not to flow well in your system. I play softball, but can't really play as much as I would like to. I'm out sometimes because of sickness, and also the medicine I take affects what I do."

"Hopefully these guys will realize how good they really have it," said Scott. "Sometimes they tend to think practice is tough, I've got school to worry about, I've got to make weight; but sometimes something like this puts it all in perspective for them. When you think you've got it pretty tough you really don't."

"Just seeing her in person and hearing her story and how it has affected her life, and how I or any one of us could be in the same shoes makes a difference," said senior wrestler Shane Hanson.

And making a difference is what is inspiring all of the Purdue wrestlers to work just a little bit harder. "I think it will give everyone a boost," said Hanson. "Especially having her there for the meet."

According to junior Boilermaker Mickey Griffin, having the fundraiser gives him an extra incentive to do well. "It definitely motivates me. I'm going to try to get as many takedowns as I can, and also get as many pledges as I can to raise as much money as we can to help fight the disease."

And Wineberg agrees: "Of course I just want to go out there and take a lot of people down. It just makes me want to try a little bit harder to get that extra takedown and get a little bit more of a donation. Every takedown is going to count, so it's always going to be a matter of getting that extra one."

Pledges and donations will be accepted at the match on Saturday, Feb. 8 against Eastern Michigan University. Starting time is at noon in the Intercollegiate Athletic Facility.