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Remembering Colton Eyer, a wrestler and friend
January 9, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
I used to make any excuse I could to interview Colton Eyer when he wrestling at Bloomsburg High School. In a sportswriters’ world, the kid was as good as gold.
He was insightful and intelligent. More importantly, he was honest.
If he had just lost a match, he’d tell you what he did wrong and why it wouldn’t happen again. If he won, he’d tell you exactly what he did wrong and why he could have been better.
He was a perfectionist who loved wrestling. He liked the tactics involved and he loved the physicality. Damn, was he physical. He never wanted to hurt his opponent, never turned a match into a street fight, but he wasn’t going to hold back on the aggression either.
He was fun to watch. And he was fun to talk to.
Colton Eyer, a former regional qualifier for Bloomsburg and two-year wrestler at Lycoming College, died Sunday night when his car crashed on Millville road in Bloomsburg. He was just 20 years old.
I remember well the first time I talked to him. It was the last time I covered the Darren Klingerman Invitational wrestling tournament when I worked for the Press Enterprise in Bloomsburg. Colton was a senior. He was coming off a junior year in which he was unable to compete in the postseason because of a back injury.
As a sophomore, Eyer had obtained a staph infection in his back, but the infection was never completely eradicated from his system. As a junior, the staph infection ate away at the discs in his back causing two vertebra to rub together. I remember talking to his dad on the phone about the excruciating pain he was going through. His pain medication would help subside the pain, but it wouldn’t last the full time between doses, meaning he’d lay helpless in his hospital bed as the pain increased to unbearable levels.
Flash forward just a few months and Eyer was wrestling in the finals of the DKI as a senior. Something not even he was sure he was going to be able to do as he laid in the hospital the previous spring. Under my breath, somewhere deep inside me, I was hoping for Colton Eyer to win that tournament.
We don’t cheer for people or teams in this job as a sports writer. But we’re never one to look the other way at a good story. Colton Eyer’s recovery was a good story.
As we talked following his win in the finals, I could tell instantly I was going to get along well with this kid. I had covered him his previous three years wrestling for Bloomsburg, but he’d never been quite the standout that the Panthers were filtering through their program at that point. In all reality, I’ve covered better athletes than Colton Eyer, more accomplished athletes than Colton Eyer. But this kid was fun.
Just a few weeks later Bloomsburg was wrestling at Warrior Run in a dual meet. Eyer was poised for his best season as a high school wrestler, a breakout season he was long overdue for. He matched up with two-time state qualifier Elias Biddle from Warrior Run, and this was Eyer’s opportunity to prove he was ready for the big stage. He was beating Biddle despite perpetual bleeding from a cut on his face that continually forced him to use blood time. With just five seconds left in the bout, Eyer ran out of blood time holding a one-point lead over Biddle.
Eyer was visibly upset, yelling in the face of the official presiding over the match. This was supposed to be his “Hello, world” moment. It was understandable why he was upset.
I waited in the gym patiently after the match, already having talked to Biddle, Warrior Run coach Wayne Smythe and Bloomsburg coach Dan Sevison. I didn’t think Eyer would want to take the time. Could you blame a high school kid for not wanting to talk after a loss like that?
But Eyer gladly stopped for a few minutes and let me know what was on his mind. He was mad still, more at the circumstances than at the official or Biddle or anything else. He spoke from his heart that night, he was honest. It was refreshing in a day when people are so close to the vest when dealing with the media.
I like to think Colton saw me as more than just the guy who covered wrestling from the newspaper. Since his graduation he and I have seen each other around Bloomsburg plenty of times, usually joking around about something.
He had an infectious personality and a world of potential both in and out of wrestling. He wrestled for two years at Lycoming, but could never quite seem to get healthy to reach that full potential. I always thought he would be a college coach’s dream. He was someone who ate up the sport and lived its lifestyle.
He had a lot to live up to after his brother Royce was a national champion for the Warriors in 2001. But that never seemed to bother him. He just wanted to compete. And boy was it fun to watch him compete.
I live the good life in this job, watching the sports I enjoy for a living, meeting more interesting people than I can remember, and telling the stories of those people to the masses. When I reflect back some day on all that I’ve done in this business, I’m going to find it hard not to think about Colton Eyer and his story.
It’s a story that ended far before it should have.
Rest easy, Colton. You’ll be missed in a way that can’t possibly be described.
Mitch Rupert covers high school and college wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo from Colton Eyer's Facebook page Former Lycoming wrestler Colton Eyer, right, receives instruction from his brother and Warriors assistant coach Royce Eyer.