Injured College Park wrestler is ‘everyone’s friend’ – The Mercury News

PLEASANT HILL — A College Park High junior varsity wrestler critically injured in a match last week is known around the campus as “everyone’s friend,” and friends and strangers responded powerfully to his family’s plight Tuesday.

Ryan Joseph remained on a breathing machine in the trauma unit at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, paralyzed from the neck down after suffering a spinal cord injury in a 160-pound match during a five-team meet Jan. 10. He has had three surgeries, and faces a lengthy recovery, school Athletic Director Jim Keck said Tuesday afternoon.

An online fundraiser had raised more than $47,000 for the family by late Tuesday afternoon. More than $20,000 had come in since late Monday night, when word of Ryan’s injury began to circulate. The Joseph family is seeking $500,000 for the treatment of Ryan’s injuries.

He is the 16-year-old son of former De La Salle football and wrestling star Tom Joseph, and also competed in lacrosse.

“Ryan is well-known by friends, teachers and coaches for his charm, exceptional wit and humor,” Keck said in a statement posted earlier Tuesday to the College Park website. “His family gives heartfelt thanks for the kindness and support they have received from the many communities Ryan has touched at College Park … and Pleasant Hill Elementary School.”

According to a witness whose son is a varsity wrestler for Alhambra High of Martinez, one team at the Jan. 10 meet, Ryan and his opponent were both upright when Ryan’s opponent gained an advantage and maneuvered to take Ryan down. Ryan hit the ground head first, and his neck bent in an unusual way, she said.

“By the way he landed, I knew it had to be a serious injury,” said Aimee Roderick of Martinez. “To me, it looked like the equivalent of diving into a pool that was too shallow.”

“It was not an illegal move, it wasn’t a move that was done with any type of malice,” said Keck, adding that he had never seen such an injury in his 33 years of coaching and working with young athletes.

School athletic officials called 911 immediately. Keck said paramedics and firefighters in the stands came down to help treat Ryan when the seriousness of the injury became apparent.