A Legacy of Courage

HALL OF FAME: Keeter to be honored

Mac BanksApril 29, 2008 

Larry Keeter smiles at a joke around with some of members of the Fort Mill wrestling team.

MAC BANKS/FORT MILL TIMES

From the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley, Larry Keeter has been everywhere in between. And now he is going into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Keeter, a former wrester at Fort Mill High left partially paralyzed in a fall from the school's alpine tower, was nominated by Fort Mill head wrestling coach Chris Brock. After going through the selection process, Keeter was voted in as part of the Class of 2008 and awarded the Medal of Courage. He will be inducted Sunday, May 4, in Columbia.

"It's a big honor for him," Brock said. "Those folks are very particular about something like this. There are people who have been in the sport for years who aren't in there."

The 19-year-old Keeter graduated from Fort Mill in 2006 and attends the Information Technology Training Center in Columbia to become certified in PC technologies and PC repair. He still comes back to Fort Mill every so often, but lives on campus in Columbia.

When he is here, he takes the time to go to Fort Mill High and stay involved in the school's wrestling program. Still powerfully built, he isn't afraid to throw himself out of his wheelchair and onto the mats to wrestle with the Jackets.

"It feels good to be back out here," he said.

Keeter said he's experienced a roller coaster of emotions since his accident, especially accepting things as they are and getting used to the changes.

"The fighting nature you learn [in wrestling] is second nature," he said. "I my mind, I'm number one and in my heart, I'm number one. I don't let things slow me down."

The alpine tower Keeter fell from has been taken down and he is glad about it.

"Unless they would have made some drastic changes, it's for the best," he said. "I would hate to see this happen to anyone else. It's hard for the family, for the individual, for my friends. I saw my dad ball his eyes out. I saw my mom cry, my friends would come so see me and cry. But it was their strength in me that made me overcome it. It was their belief in me. I thank everyone who supported me through my hard times."

Brock said he nominated Keeter for his resilience in bouncing back after such adversity.

"For someone who loves wrestling as much as he does and to have such a change in his life, like he has and to continue to be around the sport and have the same jovial attitude, its amazing," Brock said.

Brock and Keeter both agree that wrestling has helped Keeter regain what he could have easily lost because of the accident.

"The values, determination and grit was helped by wrestling," Brock said. "Wrestling is a sport where you are on that mat and when you win, it's public and when you lose, it's public. It's all you. To see him continue the love for the sport and maintain that outlook on life is amazing."

Keeter said he relies on the self-discipline the sport taught him to make it through those days when things don't go as planned or when he is depressed.

"You get beat down and you keep working and you come back to the top," he said. "If you just keep working, you will succeed."

He said being a wrestler has helped him with his body the way it is now and recognizing the good and bad signals.

He can stand, but only for about five minutes at a time, and with the help of braces, can actually walk.

"I'm hoping for the best and working for the best," he said. "Now don't get me wrong, I have bad days. I wish it wouldn't have happened. I sometimes don't like to accept things, but it is what it is. It's a part of my life. You have to take it and move on. The wheelchair is a part of me. If you dwell on it, you are going to have a sad life."

After about five minutes of standing or walking, Keeter is back in his chair. He even tries some risky things in his chair, even though he probably knows he shouldn't try going down escalators and stairs.

"I am just as mobile in it as I am out of it," he said. "Just cause I am in a chair, I'm not fragile."

Keeter has accepted being in a wheelchair as much as he can. He even goes by nicknames friends have given him, like "Wheels" or "Hot Wheels." He even jokes about starting a spin-off of ultimate fighting, called UCF or as he describes it, "Ultimate Cripple Fighting."

"Who wouldn't want to see a bunch of gimps roll around on the mat," he jokes.

Keeter said he stays as close to the wrestling program as possible, and always told Brock he would come back to help.

"I put my heart and soul in the program," he said. "You have to love the sport and really want it."

Keeter said he has always been close with his former coach, even more so now.

"He has always been there for me," Keeter said. "I have a great respect for him. He was there all throughout high school. I love the guy."

When Keeter found out he was nominated for the Hall of Fame, he beamed.

"I don't want people to forget my name. Even though I didn't win state, I want to be known."

He probably won't have to worry about people forgetting him now that he is a Hall of Fame wrestler.

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