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Amputee Dayton Webber, 11, excels at wrestling -- and a whole lot more
Being lower to the ground than other players can be an advantage, Dayton said. As plays developed, he said, he could look between offensive linemen and see in which direction the quarterback or running back was headed with the football.
"I'd bear-crawl past the linemen," Dayton said. "I liked trying my best to get through the line."
Willingness to learn
As for wrestling, Dayton wins his share of matches, pins his share of opponents and has been pinned only once -- in his first year of wrestling, when he was 7, said his father, Mike Webber.
Because of his physical limitations, Dayton can't execute certain wrestling moves. But his opponents also can't use certain basic tactics, such as going for his ankles.
Harry T. Hornick was Dayton's first wrestling coach. He said that when the Webbers brought Dayton to him, he thought, " 'Poor guy.' But you could tell from the look on his face he was very excited. He had a sparkle in his eye, like, 'This is going to be fun.' I basically started thinking, 'I'll have to figure out how he can wrestle.' "
Dayton's willingness to learn was a big plus, Hornick said. "Getting him to try stuff is easy. He's really a tough kid to pin, because he's strong, he's quick, he tries hard. These are all characteristics of a good wrestler."
Wrestling matches are paired according to weight. Dayton wrestles in the 52- to 55-pound group, often against kids who are younger. In practice, he participates in all the drills his fellow Rampage wrestlers do. When they run laps, Dayton hustles around on his stumps.
At the end of practice, the wrestlers pick up a fellow wrestler and carry him over a shoulder in a firefighter's drill. Dayton picks up his brother Justin, who also wrestles, and is a mere 10 pounds lighter.
An emergency-room visit
Natalie Webber said she thinks Dayton's resiliency has something to do with the ordeal he survived as an infant.
In May 1999, his parents took Dayton to an emergency room in La Plata. He was swollen and had a 105-degree fever.
Doctors found that Dayton had been born without a spleen, an organ that helps filter bacteria from the bloodstream. He had streptococcus bacteria in his bloodstream, and the flow to his extremities was compromised.
Dayton's prognosis was so dire at first that a doctor asked his mother if there was anything she wanted done if the boy couldn't be saved.