Hasaan Hawthorne has a state wrestling title, a perfect 37-0 season record and no lower legs.
The Huntsville, Alabama 18-year-old was born without shins because of a rare condition called tibial hememelia. When he was just two days old, a doctor told his parents they had a decision to make: to let their son’s legs and feet grow, leaving him wheelchair-bound or to amputate his feet and legs at the knees, AL.com reports. Amputation would give Hasaan the chance to walk on his own with the use of prosthetics.
At four months old, Hasaan had both legs amputated at the knees. He was outfitted with his first prosthetic legs at 14 months and soon discovered a love of sports – much to his parent’s surprise
“I didn’t even think about sports,” Hasaan’s dad, Demond Hawthorne, told AL.com. “He had a pair of walking legs, strictly for walking. Just walking in them is supposed to use the same energy we use to run.”
By age four, Hasaan was running; at age five, he started playing youth baseball. He proved too active for his walking legs, which broke often, requiring repairs that took weeks. Then, in 2007, he received a grant for curved running legs that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
“I think it’s funner having prosthetics than real legs because you get to do more stuff,” he told AL.com at age 11 “I don’t like to see people sad, I like to cheer people up. I’m just like other people, just with different legs.”
When Hasaan got older, he became more focused on one sport he’d loved since he was a small child.
“We would wrestle every weekend,” his former babysitter Duke Frison told AL.com. “You could tell that WWE was a big influence on his playtime because he would always jump on me from ‘The top rope’, which was also the top of the couch.”
Hasaan said he was inspired to try out for his school’s wrestling team after seeing one-legged wrestler Anthony Robles win a NCAA National championship in 2011.
“I said, ‘Why can’t I do it?’ It just looked cool to me,” Hasaan said.
He wrestled in more than 70 matches as a sophomore and ended his junior season third in the state for his weight class. For his final year of high school competition, he set his sights on impressing college coaches.
“I’ve got to win, got to,” he told AL.com before state championships. “I don’t think I’ve made a name for myself on the national level yet… I still feel like I have unfinished business to do.”
On Saturday, Hasaan made that dream come true – winning first place and being named most valuable wrestler in his weight class at the Alabama state wrestling championship.
He sees his incredible record as just a step on the way to nationals and then college, but his fans see it as much, much more. His father told AL.com that people approach him at matches with tears in their eyes – often because they have a loved one who is adjusting to life with a prosthetic.
“It’s easy as you get older to set limitations, and he provides an example that maybe we shouldn’t put these limits on ourselves,” Demond told AL.com in 2009. “At his age, Hasaan has probably made more of an impact on people’s lives than I will ever make.”