Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 9:55 pm / Updated at 10:07 pm
Class C: Wrestler's heart helps give team inspiration

You won't find Tim Lechtenberg's name in the program for this week's state wrestling tournament.

But his impact on a team — and its community — that is in the running for a state title is unmistakable.

Lechtenberg is a senior member of the O'Neill wrestling team and he's a lot like most of his teammates when it comes to his love for the sport.

He goes to practice, works hard and wears the blue and white with pride.

“Tim's probably the toughest guy on the team to pin,” Eagle senior Joe Gillham said. “He can bridge like no other.”

In fact, in a dual against second-ranked David City earlier this season, Lechtenberg was in the lineup for No. 1 O'Neill. Against a ranked wrestler no less.

“He didn't get pinned there, either,” O'Neill coach Bryan Corkle said.

But Lechtenberg is different from most of his teammates, as well. He battles the effects of cerebral palsy on a daily basis, a condition that severely limits the use of his legs.

But a disability isn't the story of Lechtenberg. That starts and ends with another vital part of his body.

“It's about his heart,” Corkle said. “And he has a big one.”

His humility is in no short supply, either.

Early this season, Lechtenberg came up with an idea to help a local boy battling brain cancer.

Lechtenberg pitched the plan to his teammates and coaches. Pins for Aidan, he called it.

“And it just exploded from there,” Corkle said.

People in the community jumped on board. Lechtenberg went door to door for pledges, sometimes after practice, other times after getting off work as a dishwasher at a local restaurant.

Every time an Eagle scores a pin, the monetary total rises. It may not be the team's focus during a match, but it sure is after.

“It's the first thing I think about after every one,” Lechtenberg said.

Aidan's father, Allen Spangler, is a teacher at O'Neill High. Lechtenberg said young Aidan is around the building quite a bit and is always an inspiration, even to someone who is an inspiration himself.

“Every time you see (Aidan) he'll give you knuckles,” Lechtenberg said. “He's just such a great kid.”

About $2,200 has been raised already, Lechtenberg said. The Spangler family asked that all donations go to Team Jack, the organization named after Atkinson 8-year-old Jack Hoffman, another local youth — Atkinson is 18 miles from O'Neill — who has battled pediatric brain cancer.

The “Pins for a Cure” campaign has been a nice boost for an O'Neill team seeking the first state title in any sport in school history.

And it has made a teammate out of a tough 8-year-old.

“The best part is seeing him at meets and seeing him smile,” Lechtenberg said.

Lechtenberg's career, spent mostly at the junior varsity level, ended a couple of weeks ago. But he was in the O'Neill section of the crowd on Thursday at the CenturyLink Center.

He sent Corkle a text earlier in the week asking to borrow an O'Neill coach's polo.

“He wanted to look good,” Corkle said with a smile. “He said he wanted to represent the school well.”

Mission accomplished.

* * *

Video: Sights and sounds from Thursday at Nebraska State Wrestling

Contact the writer: Nick Rubek    |   402-850-0781    |  

Nick Rubek covers Nebraska football, Omaha Beef football and high school sports throughout the state, including football, wrestling and soccer.

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