Scholarship Winners!

Meet our deserving winners, read their bios and leave a few words of encouragement.

= multi-year scholarships awarded!

Tristan Middlebrook

Wrestling, Football, Weightlifting
Southeastern University

2021 AAO Scholarship Winner

Tristan was electered Varsity Captain of Lake Gibson High School Wrestling team. He was named as a volunteer Assistant Coach to help coach the LGSHS JV Wrestling Team in tournaments while still an active wrestler during his Junior and Senior years. He was selected as a varsity starter his freshman year in football, wrestling and weightlifting due to work ethic and skill.

Tristan’s first goal is to become a strength and conditioning coach for a college or professional sports team.

He wants to own his own sports strength and conditioning center in his hometown of Auburndale, FL. He wants to travel the country helping to implement strength and conditioning techniques to various schools and youth sports programs.

Imagine being at wrestling practice and the next thing you know is you wake up in a hospital bed having no idea what happened or how you got there. When he was was 15 years old this is exactly where he found myself. As soon as his eyes opened I saw a tall trophy on a table by the hospital bed he was in. The words“Who’s number 1” was engraved across the plaque. He didn’t understand what had happened, but he did realize that he had missed a tournament that he had been training really hard for. As the hours went by, his mother, dad and sister began filling him in on what had landed me in a hospital with tubes and machines hooked up to him. A stomach flu bug had been going through the wrestling room that week and he thought he had been able to avoid it, but he was wrong! Towards the end of practice that day, Tristan became disoriented and collapsed on the mat. His Dad and the coaches thought he had something like heat exhaustion and started cooling him down to make sure he was okay, and then 911 was called.

The last thing he remembered was being at practice after school that day, when he woke up he found out 9 days had passed. He was in major shock and was in a panic because he knew his team had a very busy season

lined up and he had a job to do. The doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists were all telling him and the family that he would have a long, hard recovery and they weren’t sure if his heart and lungs would ever allow him to play sports again, due to the damage that had been done to his vital organs. The reason they believed this was because when EMS arrived on the scene that day at the LGSHS gym, a lot of unforced medical mistakes were made. The EMS team forced air into his chest cavity by making an icision in his upper thorax (airway). This caused a lot of bad things to happen to him, including 2 collapsed lungs, causing major organ failure, his aspiration caused pneumonia and his heart was reacting like he had had a heart attack.

Tristan was airlifted twice from the local hosital and spent a total of 16 days in three different regional hospitals, 11 of those days were in the ICU. He knew all the medical staff at the hospitals were just trying to prepare him for the worst, but really wanted him to get better. He also knew that there was nothing that was going to stop him from getting back to school, the wrestling team and back on the mat, no matter how long it took. And that’s exactly what he did.

He had to go through total body detoxification of all the hospital medications. He went to tons of follow up doctors appointments and slowly got back to where he could work with weights for strength and on his cardio system. It took a couple of months for the tremors in his hands to go away when he tried to hold a penci at school. His family, coaches and teammates were there for him through it all.

His first match later that same season, was a bit of a shock to him, when he went to do a move where it required me to really use my strength and realizing, that he didn’t have his full strength back yet. But that feeling just made him work harder. He had to prove to himself that he could come back stronger and better than he was before his medical emergency.

It’s been a little over two years since he got a second chance at life and besides some scars where chest tubes were put into him and having to be careful when he eat (because his throat muscles were damaged), he is almost back to normal. Other than this set-back happening to him the only thing he had to deal with that has affected him in school and somewhat in sports is his ADHD. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 6 and up until recently was on special medication for control. It makes things harder for him, but he thinks he can handle it in college.

Tristan is very grateful that he will be starting college this Fall 2021 at Southeastern University, where he will be wrestling and hopefully get to help other athletes live healthy and be as strong as possible. He is excited to see what he can give back to the community by becoming a strength and conditioning coach. He just finished competing at the FHSAA 2021 State Championship Tournament for High School Wrestling. He is very proud of his 1st place in the 2A 220lb Division.

It has only been a few days since the State Tournament, so of course, he is still finding it hard to believe that it’s real. He is very humbled by all the people that have taken the time to congratulate him and he now sees how much it means to his family that he is healthy enough to compete again. He will not take anything for granted anymore, whether it be college academics, wrestling competition, spending time with family and other people he loves. He understands he is still young, but he now knows better how serious his medical situation was and he knows he owes it to his family, all the doctors, medical staff and  student-athletes who did not become State Champions, to live for them and strive to be the best he can be. Tristan thinks, getting back to high school classes, rejoining his wrestling team and once again training and  competing at the hightest level has been his ultamate physical therapy.

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BobCurtis@RobinWagmanAAO.org