A high school wrestler died today. His name was Charley Engelfried, he was 17 years old, and he had just gotten his pin, crossed the mat and shaken his opponent’s coach’s hand, and gone back to his own bench. And then he died.
He was 6 feet tall and weighed 260 pounds. He played offensive and defensive lineman in football season. His classmates described him as “a big, gentle bear,” kind, well-mannered, and well-liked.
Charley lived in Silverton, which is across the state from us, just outside of Salem, the state capitol. Had he lived, he and Patrick might well have wrestled next year.
The doctor said Charley died of an enlarged heart; he said it’s one of the commoner causes of unexpected death among young people.
Maybe because Charley sounds so very much like Patrick, this death seems very close to home. I’m not alone in feeling this way. Tonight at the wrestling meet none of the coaches would let their boys wrestle with Patrick; they said the risk of injury was too great with a boy as big as he is.
I drove 150 miles for nothing, but while I was disappointed, I can absolutely understand the coaches’ reasoning; and I am glad to know that they are putting the safety of their boys first. Last week, Patrick wrestled four boys. This week, no one. I suspect that Charley’s death factored into that decision. We left the match and drove home on roads I used to drive as a young girl, talking about love, responsibility, school, and Charley.
Losing a boy just as he is becoming a man is a tragedy under any circumstances. It’s a reminder of the fragility of our children–even boys who seem big, healthy and strong have hearts that may fail them. I don’t know Charley’s parents. I wish I did–at least well enough to let them know that their son’s passing is felt not only in his immediate circle, but by those of us who read about him, see him reflected in our own sons’ faces, and hold them tighter because of it.
It wouldn’t help; I suspect there is nothing anyone can say right now that will. I think of Charley’s parents, and it is hard not to put myself in their place. What would I do, if it was my son? I don’t know. I can’t even imagine it. I doubt if Charley’s parents could, either. Losing a child is the one contingency I think none of us can prepare for.
But that didn’t stop it from happening. And we are all changed–even those of us who live far away, and whose lives are only tangentially connected.
Rest in peace, Charley. It is too soon.