Wrestling

N.J. wrestler presents his gold medal to opponent with Down Syndrome

Michael Arechavala is a well-known figure in the Audubon (N.J.) community.

A three-sport athlete with Down Syndrome, he has been a familiar face in the school’s athletic community and its halls. His mom says he’s known as “The Mayor.”

Michael has been involved with the Special Olympics since the age of 7 and that helped fuel his interest and participation in sports.

He got an at-bat for the baseball team as a freshman, and this football season, he ran a kickoff back for a touchdown in a 45-6 victory on Thanksgiving Day. The coaches wanted to reward him for his hard work to the program over his four years.

Amazingly, he also recently collected 6,152 items for his church’s food pantry to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.

He was part of a touching moment on the wrestling mat last week when he faced Devon Starks from Highland Regional (Blackwell, N.J.) at the Bart Payne Tournament.

Starks let Arechavala take him down twice in the match before he “gently” took the victory so he could advance in the tournament.

Starks, also a football player, would go on to win an individual title, but he left without his championship medal. That’s because he found Arechavala and gave it to him.

“It was totally a normal thing to me to make sure a person who was dealt the wrong card in life could still have fun in the sport I love,” Starks told USA TODAY High School Sports. “It really made me happy to see his reaction of pure joy when I gave him my medal.

“I feel anyone in my position would have done the same if they understood his situation. I honestly felt more proud to give him the medal than winning my finals match.”

Kudos to Starks for an incredible show of sportsmanship and class.