For the state wrestling championships, Mesa (Ariz.) senior James Williams wanted to wear a new, purple singlet.
On the front it reads, “Stronger Than Sarcoma, Team Miley.”
Down the back it reads, “Beat Cancer.”
Because of the rule book, he wasn’t allowed to wear it at the Arizona Interscholastic Association state meet, which he won in the 160-pound division.
He’s been wearing it ever since at meets not sanctioned by the AIA.
He recently won a big trophy finishing first in the Terminator tournament in Prescott, wearing the singlet.
He intends to put Miley McCrary’s name on it and, with another Mesa wrestler, sophomore Christian Riordan and his dad, deliver it to the 7-year-old girl about 800 miles away in northern California.
This weekend, he will be wearing the special singlet at the NHSCA National Wrestling Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.
Williams, who dates Riordan’s older sister, Beth, a Mesa senior, was moved by Miley’s story through Scott Riordan, who went to high school with Miley’s father, Scott McCrary, an Oakland firefighter. They haven’t seen each other for 26 years, but, in recent years, kept in touch through Facebook.
A Facebook page entitled, “We Love Miley McCrary,” shows the smiling girl with no hair, who has had eight surgeries since she was 6 for sarcoma, a bone cancer.
She has a titanium rod in her arm, but she no longer needs chemotherapy. Her hair is growing back. And she has an extra bounce in her step with the outpouring of love, even from places such as Mesa.
“For him to show that much support is pretty awesome for me,” Scott McCrary said. “To go out on a limb from a different state, it’s amazing. I know it’s not a popular cancer. People ask, ‘What is sarcoma?’ That’s the great thing, getting knowledge about it out there, kids that age raising awareness.”
Williams said he lost a family member to lung cancer.
“What she’s gone through at such a young age and to be able to bounce back and be a happy-go-lucky kid she is,” Williams said. “I like to tell her story.”
Christian Riordan, who will wear the Miley singlet at state and regional freestyle tournaments, said the little girl’s story motivates him to go hard in matches and try to win.
“This is something to show the public,” Riordan said.
Williams feels good about his chances at winning at nationals this weekend. He will wrestle in college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical, an NAIA school in Prescott.
“Of course you have to motivate yourself, but it’s always nice to have something else motivating you,” Williams said. “It’s something to win for. It’s not just wrestling for yourself.
“I’ve been raised to give to others, be unselfish.”
Scott Riordan, who works as a security guard at Mesa Mountain View, said that other wrestlers at tournaments have asked about the singlets.
“They say, ‘Hey, I want one of those,’ ” Scott Riordan said. “It’s cool.”