If you haven’t followed the Penns Valley wrestling team this season, you’ve been missing out on a special story.
Carl Mundt is a junior for the Rams. He has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and has been wrestling since the seventh grade by choice — a decision that surprised his mother, Pat.
“I just thought it was great because most autistic kids don’t like being in close proximity to people,” she said. “I thought it was unusual that he wanted to do it. I think at first he wanted to do it because his older brother did it. I think he enjoys it and it doesn’t bother him.”
Mundt has wrestled three matches this season and is 1-2. Even though none of them have been in a varsity dual, that hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves.
“Well, it’s about doing my best. I get a bit nervous sometimes because the guys are a bit tall,” Mundt said, adding he doesn’t let nerves affect his wrestling. “I just wrestle as best as I can.”
Mundt said that some of the guys that he pals around with are teammates Jared Hurd and Corey Rimmey.
Rimmey, who is the starting 195-pound wrestler for the Rams, said it’s “pretty cool” to be in one of those special stories.
“He’s always laughing every time he comes off,” Rimmey said with a wide smile. “I’m guessing he’s happy to participate. We are happy, too. We all get excited when he goes out on the mat. He’s not going to dog it and neither is the other guy. He’s pretty exciting to watch.”
Rimmey also tries to practice with Mundt when he can. He said that he likes to show him some things if Mundt isn’t grasping a new move or a concept too well.
“He’s really strong and that’s a good thing about him,” Rimmey said. “He’s like one of those guys that are really big but he doesn’t have a lot of technique but he could really use it.”
Penns Valley coach Joel Brinker treats Mundt just like all the other guys — there isn’t any special treatment. If the team is doing conditioning drills, Mundt is running right along with them. He helps setup and tear down mats at home duals.
“He’s a good kid to have,” Brinker said. “He is right in there. He wants to wrestle. It’s not like he tries not to wrestle. He always tries his best. He comes off smiling and always says, ‘I did my best, coach.’”
As the District 6 Class AA individual wrestling tournament gets underway on Friday at Altoona Area High School’s Fieldhouse, Mundt won’t be on the mat. Instead, he’ll be rooting his teammates on from the corner of the mat.
“He’s the guy that lightens us up,” Rimmey said. “When we are all sitting here and he is cheering us, we are all happy. You can’t be mad at him. He’s just the happy guy that we all love and are glad to have on the team.”
Brinker said on Wednesday that he was unsure if Mundt would make the trip for the second day of competition on Saturday. If he can’t make it, Rimmey feels there will be a piece missing for the Rams. Brinker echoed the thoughts of his wrestler.
“Everybody likes him. They look after him,” he said. “He cheers the team on at will. He gets frustrated when the guys aren’t doing good. He let’s them have it kind of. He always says, ‘We got to be doing better guys.’”
District 6 Class AA Tournament
When: Friday — First session, 9:30 a.m.; Second session, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday — First session, 9:30 a.m.; Second session, 6 p.m.
Where: Altoona High School’s Fieldhouse, Altoona
Live updates: Flowrestling.org