'Keep Calm and Fight On': Saranac's Sectional Champion Nathan Wood Battling Cancer

A year after making the top 8 at the 2012 New York State tournament, Saranac’s Nathan Wood hoped to be wrestling for the Section 7 title on February 9. Instead, he watched as two grapplers he defeated earlier in the season battled for a chance to go to Albany.

“It was really hard for him not to be on the mat,” Saranac coach Heath Smith said. “He was there rooting his teammates on, but it was tough for him, especially not knowing what was going on with his health.”

Courtesy of Saranac Wrestling Facebook

It had been a challenging time for Wood. After winning 16 of his first 17 bouts of the 2012-13 campaign at 195 pounds, including 12 by fall, he began to feel sick. Shortly afterwards, he began to have some issues with his leg, including severe pain. On top of that, he was losing weight.

“He went from winning and looking and feeling good in December to all kinds of problems within several weeks,” Smith said. “The doctors saw some enlarged lymph nodes in his leg and removed them. About a week after Sectionals, we found out that they found cancerous cells. It was shocking. We thought maybe he pulled something or had some type of injury. To go from that to something life threatening – you’re not prepared for that. You don’t expect a 17-year old boy to come back from the doctor hearing he has cancer.”

To receive his treatments for Ewing’s Sarcoma, Wood has been spending most of his time in a Vermont hospital. And while he fights, the wrestling and surrounding communities have stepped up to assist him.

During Saranac’s pee-wee tournament, a 50/50 drawing raised over $1000 for the Wood family. There have been sales of t-shirt and bracelets and multiple car washes to raise more for the family.

In addition, on May 5, a spaghetti dinner will be held at Assumption of Mary School in Redford. The event, which will begin at noon, will feature a raffle, bake sale, face painting, 50/50 and live music, among other things.

“We really want to help them out with the medical expenses and all the traveling back and forth to Burlington,” said Beckie Mann, an organizer of the event. “From what I know, it will probably be a lengthy stay in Vermont for him and we want to do what we can.”

Courtesy of the Benefit for Nathan Wood Facebook page

Whether or not Wood will attend the May 5 festivities is unknown. But he did make the trip back to New York recently, according to Smith, and hopes to do so on a periodic basis.

“It’s good that he was able to come back for a little bit,” Smith said. “I remember him as a little kid, coming up to the pee wee program and thinking how good he would be. He wanted to be on the mat – he gave it a shot in January before we knew what was going on and made it to the finals [of the Dan Wickham Classic]. But the pain was too much. As much as we think wrestling is important sometimes, it needs to be on the backburner now. Some things are much bigger.”

For more information on Nathan Wood’s fight and the efforts to assist him and his family, see this Facebook page.