E.A. Sports Today

Up off the mat

Saks’ Kilgore recovering from accident, receives regional Bryant-Jordan Scholarship, recognized Tuesday by his wrestling teammates

Saks’ Andrew Kilgore has his arm raised by the referee signaling victory in the final home wrestling match of his career Tuesday. The Wildcats bestowed Kilgore the honor as he recovers from injuries suffered in a car accident last spring. (Photo courtesy of the Kilgore family)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When you’ve gone through the experience Andrew Kilgore has endured over the last 10 months you tend to measure life going forward through a series of small victories.

The Saks senior has had a number of them — and a few setbacks — as he courageously recovers from his horrific car accident in Ohatchee last spring. Two of the more recent such victories are nothing short of heartwarming.

Recently, he was named a regional winner of the prestigious Bryant-Jordan Scholarship for the way he has maintained his academic excellence and his indomitable spirit through a most difficult time.

Then on Tuesday afternoon the Saks wrestling program bestowed him the highest of honors. In the final home match of his career, against Ohatchee, in front of the whole school, Kilgore dressed in his singlet, moved to the middle of the mat with the aid of a walker, and had his arm raised by the referee in match victory.

“I was sitting in class yesterday and coach (Rob) Owen randomly thought of the cool idea to accept a forfeit for my last home match,” Kilgore said. “This would allow me to end my senior season ‘undefeated’ with a 1-0 record.

“He said it would be a good way to go out, and it would also be a good way to honor what I have done for the program — almost like walking to midfield for the coin toss in football.

“At first I was reluctant to go through with it because I don’t like attention and recognition. With some debate and some peer pressure from my best friend Brannon Ogle I went through with it. I got the idea to wear my special finals singlet to make me feel like I was on the big stage one more time.

“Going on the mat one last time felt really good. Even though I didn’t actually get to wrestle, this allowed me a chance to reminisce on all of the wonderful wrestling memories I have made throughout my six-year career. I know I will never get to wrestle again, but that is okay because I have these precious memories I will cherish forever.”

Wrestling was only one of the sports at which he excelled before the accident. He was projected to be the football team’s defensive leader in the fall and he also played center field and pitched on the baseball team.

Of course he hasn’t be able to participate in sports since the accident, but that hasn’t kept from being a part of every program. In fact, the coaches in each sport encourage his involvement.

He has undergone eight surgeries since the accident, the most recent on his left leg three weeks ago and one he hopes will be the last. He has had good days and bad days during his recovery, and he has leaned on all that his three sports have taught him to get through the toughest of times.

He has made peace with his athletics career ending, and is focusing on moving forward in the game of life. He is leaning towards attending Auburn for mechanical engineering; the Bryant-Jordan and other scholarships he’s been awarded for his academic achievement will help.

Kilgore is one of at least three Calhoun County athletes who are regional winners of the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship. Weaver wrestler Connor Uesry and Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes are also confirmed winners of the $2,500 regional award, qualifying them for the overall Bryant-Jordan Scholarship to be awarded this spring.

“It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Saks football and basketball coach Jonathan Miller said. “The kid has gone through a lot. He’s tough as nails. It’s like I told him before: He’s probably the only one of us who’s tough enough to handle all of this that’s come to him. It’s good to see him be rewarded for his hard work and perseverance. It’s just good to see something good happen to him.”

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