Barrington High student with special needs honored with trip to the mat
Barrington High School student Will Karsten has been an integral member of the boys wrestling team, so he was prepared to bring his high energy level to the mat for Senior Night in the final home meet of the season.
Karsten, the highly successful wrestling team's manager who has special needs, always is ready to fill water bottles and perform other duties to help his fellow Broncos. He is known for his sideline enthusiasm during matches.
Friday night before a couple hundred spectators in Barrington's gymnasium, Karsten went from the sideline to the wrestling mat in the headline varsity match against Conant High School from Hoffman Estates.
It was a way for the team to honor him for his passion and hard work.
"Take him down and pin him," Karsten said of his strategy just before his win.
Wrestler Luke Rasmussen, a junior, sparked the special evening with a text message to one of his coaches pitching the idea of having Karsten on the mat. Rasmussen said he was willing to wrestle the popular manager before the details were worked out for Karsten to have a bona fide varsity experience against Conant.
"He's a big part of the team," Rasmussen said. "He's here every day at practice, fills up our waters. He comes Saturday, wakes up early like 5 a.m. sometimes, to come with us to the meets. He's always there cheering us on, sometimes louder than us (wrestlers). So, yeah, he's a really big part."
Assistant varsity wrestling coach Ken Hoving, a special-education teacher, said everything came together quickly Friday to get Karsten on the mat. As part of the formalities needed for Karsten to wrestle, his parents went to a doctor's office so paperwork from their son's most recent physical could be sent to Barrington High's athletic department.
Hoving later emailed Conant wrestling coach Chad Hay, who didn't need any coaxing to go along with the plan. Hay said he selected junior Ethan Richert to grapple with Karsten.
"Wrestling tends to be even a little bit more inclusive than some other sports, I think," Hay said. "In wrestling, it's every size."
Karsten's parents were in the house to accompany him for the Senior Night festivities and watch him wrestle.
An avid sports fan who also is a manager for the baseball and soccer teams, the teenager has matured and developed since receiving opportunities with the general student population, said his father, Bruce Karsten.
Bruce Karsten added that the evening meant a lot to him.
"Things like this are a lot why we tried hard to get Will into Barrington High School," he said. "He had been in a separate school program before, up until about sophomore year. But to be able to get him to spend time with other non-disabled peers was a big reason we wanted him here. And so things like this are just amazing."