Dock Kelly, 126-pound wrestler for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, enjoyed an outstanding senior season in 1996. He posted a 22-7 record with four falls, was 9-1 in dual meets, placed third in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships and went 1-1 in the NCAA Division I nationals.
What's so outstanding about those numbers? Kelly has only one foot and one functional hand--and an enormous heart. He was the second winner of the Medal of Courage of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Dock was born with two legs. The right one stopped growing because of a birth defect doctors couldn't explain. Fearful that it would stunt the rest of his body's growth, they amputated his leg just below the knee--any higher and Kelly wouldn't have been able to push off that leg as a wrestler.
The index and middle fingers of his left hand were webbed at birth and had to be surgically separated to give him five functional fingers. His right hand, though, is fingerless from the defect. Growing up, he suffered the sting of people watching him limp, people staring at his prosthesis if he wore shorts. He felt he stood out for the wrong reasons.
While a high school junior in Southern Pines, N.C., Kelly's buddies suggested he go out for wrestling. He already lifted weights. "Nobody can beat you," they said. His first year, 18 opponents did just that. "The next year I had to prove I was better than 18 losses," he says. As a senior, he was 34-3 and was voted outstanding wrestler in the conference.
"I'm so glad I found wrestling," declares the son of Dock and Viesther Kelly. "Wrestling was the missing piece in my personal jigsaw puzzle." Wrestling gave him the confidence to ignore the way people reacted to his disabilities and the chance to compete in athletics.
Kelly's explosive speed helped the team captain post a squad-best 62 takedowns, and win first place in the Appalachian State Mountaineer Open with five straight victories.
Medal of Courage