HEBER CITY — If one looks very closely at either Box Elder freshman wrestler Brandon Murray or Farmington junior wrestler Jake Waddoups, they’ll see a square outline protruding from their wrestling singlet somewhere around their abdomen.
The square outline might actually not be visible unless one knows what to look for. But the outline is that of an insulin pump.
Both of the wrestlers have Type 1 diabetes, the type where the body’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough or any insulin which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a hormone needed to allow sugar to enter the body’s cells and produce energy.
Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed in young children, though it’s also been known to pop up in adults in some cases. Waddoups was diagnosed in the seventh grade; Murray said he was diagnosed with it when he was 8 years old.
The tricky thing with Type 1 diabetes is maintaining normal blood sugar levels, which are directly related to what a person eats. In the sport of wrestling, where wrestlers are required to maintain their weight in order to compete in different classifications, can turn an already tough disease to manage into a tightrope walk.
“It’s kind of hard to cut weight with diabetes because if (your blood sugar is) low, you have to eat and then your weight will go up,” Murray said.
As any diabetic person knows, the disease is a constant battle of managing things like what to eat, how much to eat and how much insulin is needed to counteract whatever’s being eaten.
“During the wrestling season, obviously, I’m going to eat cleaner so my blood sugar doesn’t go crazy, but that’s just also because I need to watch my weight,” Waddoups said.
But they’re each able to manage it and wrestle without major impediments. In fact, they’re both quite good on the mat.
Waddoups, a 106-pounder, entered Thursday’s state tournament with a 30-4 record this season, while Murray, also a 106-pounder, entered at 28-11.
The insulin pump connects to a cord and a small device that displays a digital readout of their blood sugar. It shows them where their blood sugar level is currently and where it has been.
For matches they disconnect the cord, so while they might not have a digital readout of where their blood sugar’s at on their person, they know their bodies well enough by now to know what signs to watch for.
Fatigue, dizziness, a headache, feeling shaky or just generally feeling sick are some of the signs Waddoups and Murray recognize as having low blood sugar.
“Usually, nothing really happens. I’ve gone low (on blood sugar) two or three times during a match, and I was just at divisionals, I was wrestling my JV (teammate) and I went low, and I took injury time to get some carbs in me to try to get my blood sugar up. It was a closer match than I wanted it to be,” Waddoups said.
Usually. It happened in his semifinal, where he had to take injury time and came back and won after taking a couple of glucose tabs. After the match, though, he was carried off the mat by one of his coaches.
If there’s a pressing need in the middle of a match to up their blood sugar, they’ll eat a glucose tab, which essentially looks like a big piece of candy. They also each have an insulin pen, which can provide long-acting or short-acting insulin depending on a person’s needs.
After his first-round match at Thursday’s state championships, Waddoups pulled his digital blood sugar monitor out from where he had kept it underneath the part of his wrestling singlet that goes down to his leg.
“So I’m 227 (milligrams per deciliter), which like, it’s not terrible but definitely a little higher than I want it to be. For wrestling days I want it to be between 150 and 200,” he said.
Anything at or under 140 mg/dL is considered a normal blood sugar level, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Funnily enough, Waddoups and Murray are familiar with each other, having wrestled against each other in the same region and at the same wrestling club, and also in the divisional tournament finals earlier this month in the same Wasatch High gym where the state tournament was held.
“Yeah, he’s the only one I’ve ever wrestled that has it,” Murray said.
They have that in common, so sometimes their conversations will pivot from wrestling to a new type of pump that just came out, or a particular match in which their blood sugar went low or high.
Not everyone’s as understanding. Earlier this school year, Waddoups says his blood sugar was low in class at school one day, so he asked the teacher if he could go to the vending machine for a snack after he ran out of his own snacks. The teacher said no. Waddoups, angry, took his stuff and left anyway.
“I’m super outgoing, so I was fine standing up for myself, but I feel bad for the kids that are shy, or when your blood sugar’s low you’re not — you can’t think straight and that’s super dangerous,” he said.
But each of their doctors tells them they can wrestle as long as they manage the potentially deadly disease.
“He just says if you feel like you can wrestle and you think you can push through and keep going, just keep doing it. Do what you love; don’t let diabetes hold you back,” Murray said.