Austin Klutz will never forget the life-changing moment that happened to him and his family this past October.
However, the Newton-Conover sophomore wrestler is hoping to make brighter memories this Saturday.
A little more than four months after the passing of his mother, Klutz is trying to repeat what his brother did on the mat last year by winning a 2A state wrestling championship in Greensboro this weekend.
Austin’s mother, Julie Klutz, suddenly passed away on Oct.12, 2012 at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center after she suffered a stroke and brain aneurysm.
Austin was stunned at his mother’s passing after seeing her just a few hours prior to her abrupt health issues.
“I didn't know what to think of it at the time,” he said. “I really still
don't.I don't want to believe it happened. The last time I saw her awake when she was in the hospital, I told her it would be okay. She smiled at me. That was the last time I remember her smiling.It was good to say that. The feeling of losing her is unlike any other. Until you experience it,you will never know what it feels like.”
Around 600 people showed up to support Austin and his family at Julie Klutz’s funeral later that week, including nearly every Newton-Conover wrestler.
“The wrestling team knew what I was going through and knew I needed them,” Austin said. “They would say anything they could and made sure they were there for me.”
Turning a negative situation into a positive one, Austin refocused himself on the wrestling mat and off of it, as well.
“Since mom passed away, it motivated me to wrestle,” he said. “It processed through my mind that she wants to see me do good in sports and Boy Scouts. She wouldn't want me to stop doing everything just because she is gone. She would want me to continue and strive to be successful. I
think it motivated me to go straight into wrestling, wrestle hard, go as hard and far as I can.”
With heavy hearts,the Newton-Conover wrestling team decided to dedicated this season to the memory of Julie Klutz.
Nancy Alexander,a longtime friend of Julie Klutz and supporter of the Newton-Conover wrestling program, came up with a unique tribute to involve each of the Red Devil wrestlers.
“(N-C) coach (Eddy)Clark said he wanted to do something to honor Julie,” Alexander said.“So,I went and purchased black ribbon and started sewing them to the 50-plus wrestling singlets. Julie was one of the best friends I've ever had. We've worked together for many years with wrestling and Boy Scouts. This was the least I could do to honor her memory. She will always be with me.”
Driven by the memory of Julie Klutz, the Red Devils have experienced possibly their best season ever on the mat.
Two weeks ago, Newton-Conover won its first 2A dual team state title by edging Croatan, 31-30.
This past weekend,the Red Devils added a fourth-straight 2A West Region title to their 2012-13 résumé and qualified 10 wrestlers for states,including Austin Klutz as an individual region champion.
“(Julie Klutz’s death) may have added to our kids another element of reason to focus and reason to go through the preparation and routine we stress to them, ”Clark said. “Sometimes that little extra motivation and inspiration makes a big difference.Maybe,in that way, it impacted our season a little bit.”
Austin said his region title victory was a very emotional one.
“Any time I hear someone say they know my mom was cheering for me, it brings tears to my eyes because I know I made her proud even ifshe isn't physically here,”he said.“Whenever they say angels are on our side and things like that, it makes me want to go farther. It's indescribable knowing she is looking down on me,helping our team and answering our prayers.”
Klutz,who spent last season on the mat as a freshman behind senior Ian Canrobert, gets his first chance to compete on the 2A state wrestling championships on Thursday in Greensboro.
After watching his brother Addison capture a state title at 152 pounds last year, Austin set his sights on making his own history at Newton-Conover.
“I saw (Addison) win a state title and was cheering as loud as I could,” Austin said. “At that point,I realized that could be me and needs to be me.Last year, I set it in my mind that was what I was going to do. I wanted to win at least one state title before I graduated. Hopefully,I can do it this year.Ifnot,maybe next year. I'm going to do it before I get out of high school.”
Klutz (51-5 on the season) takes on Corinth Holders High School’s Dustin Brennan (52-7) in the first round of the 106-pound weight class.
As for how he thinks the young sophomore will perform come Thursday, Clark is confident Klutz will do his best.
“Austin has wrestled his whole life,” Clark said. “It doesn't matter whether it is in Greensboro or here in the practice room. He knows how to prepare. He knows how to wrestle.That's all you can tell him to do.He is a talented kid.I don't want to make predictions,but Austin is a tough kid.He is good and smart.I guess we will just see.”