When special needs wrestler Andy Howland from Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School went up against Norton High School's undefeated, 27-0 senior Co-Captain Deven Schuko, something happened that neither of their teammates or coaches expected.
Howland, a 21-year-old transition student with Down syndrome, pinned one of the state's top Division 3 high school wrestlers to earn a victory in the triangular meet Saturday featuring Norton, Dighton-Rehoboth and Bristol Plymouth/Coyle-Cassidy High Schools.
Video of the match showing a triumphant Howland, captured by Norton's Anthony Pucino, quickly went viral.
Norton coach Pat Coleman said he was pleased the NHS senior put aside natural competitiveness to enable his opponent to claim a thrilling victory.
"I'm proud of him," Coleman said. "He's a real squared-away kid."
Schuko said the matchup was unplanned, but when he heard Howland was looking for an opponent, he volunteered.
"I asked the coach, and he said he thought that would be a great idea," said Schuko, an honor student and member of the Spanish National Honor Society. "We just wanted to make his day."
The win was far from the first victory for Howland, a Dighton resident who has been wrestling for seven years.
"He's strong as a bull," said his mother Debbie, who along with her husband Jim attend all of Andy's matches.
She said her son has been captivated by wrestling since he was a little boy, and almost never misses a pro wrestling tournament on TV.
Debbie Howland said her son works hard at practice and has a good relationship with coaches, teammates and opponents.
"They always treat him with respect," she said.
Andy said he's enjoying the attention, including several TV interviews, that came with his weekend victory.
He says he likes the competition and camaraderie with other athletes around the mat.
"Wrestling's my favorite sport," he said.
The high-profile win came in Andy's third-to-last meet, since he'll soon be turning 22.
He said he'll miss the heart-pounding challenge of competing, but hopes to remain involved in wrestling as an assistant coach.