By Joe Williams, Sports Editor
Independence wrestler Hunter Garstin was seriously injured in a freak event during a tournament in Huntsville, Ala. last Saturday, and the Independence, Williamson County and Middle Tennessee community has come to the family’s aid.
“There has just been such an outpouring of support,” said Garstin’s coach at Indy, Jared Grindstaff. “We are at the start of a long road.”
Garstin was reportedly making a move to take down his opponent when the pair fell to the mat, with Garstin hitting awkwardly on his neck. The freshman from Franklin was transported to Huntsville Hospital where he underwent surgery to fuse at least two broken vertebrae and was diagnosed with a spinal cord injury.
Williamson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney went to Huntsville on Saturday upon being informed of the injury, noting that the family is, “…one of our own.” Hunter’s mother, Emily Garstin, is a kindergarten teacher at Pearre Creek Elementary in Franklin.
By Tuesday, the young grappler had begun to stabilize after early positive signs. He was awake and alert and had begun to move his arms, said Grindstaff, who has been visiting the hospital daily. By Wednesday afternoon, he had been moved from ICU to a regular room.
“Hunter’s got a good attitude,” he said. “The recovery is going to be a process.”
Garstin will remain at Huntsville Hospital until being moved to a rehabilitation facility, possibly the renowned Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
The response from the community has been, “…overwhelming,” according to a post on the Facebook page “Prayers for Hunter Garstin.” The page was hoping for 1,000 “likes” when it was created on Sunday. By Tuesday the total had exceeded 10,000 and continued to climb at press time.
Garstin’s mother, Emily, posted Sunday night that the postings on Facebook were having a positive effect on Hunter.
“I can’t even begin to explain to you how your love and prayers are impacting Hunter,” she wrote. “Every word I share with him motivates him and makes him stronger.
“Hunter is strong, motivated and is trusting God’s healing hand on him.”
A community meeting at Independence Monday night set into motion a series of fundraising possibilities to offset the growing and continuing costs of being so far from home.
SunTrust Bank has set up the “Hunter Garstin Benefit Fund” for cash and check contributions. Donations can be made at any SunTrust Bank.
In addition, Independence High School has a donation point in the main office for non-cash donations such as restaurant gift cards and pre-paid Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards, fuel cards, rolls of quarters for vending machines, etc. Several individuals have donated “reward miles” to help offset the costs of lodging, according to the Facebook page. For more information on non-cash donations, contact Kim Little at (615) 300-3822.
The swift and organized support for Garstin and his family may have surprised some, but not Looney.
“It’s just part of what makes this community so great,” said Looney. “We pull together in a time of need.”
A Facebook page "Prayers for Hunter Garstin" has already received over 11,000 likes. The page features words of encouragement for the injured wrestler and updates from the family on his condition.
Posted on: 12/12/2013