Photo by Bill Roseberry
Connor Broyles gets his hand raised after winning a match at the Class 3A state tournament in February. Broyles wrestled at 132 pounds for the Alton Redbirds at state. The two-time state qualifier dealt with Type 1 diabetes throughout his wrestling career and now passes on his experiences to younger kids dealing with the disease.
Connor Broyles relishes giving back all he can passionately to the Greater Alton community.
It figures. The former Alton High wrestler gave it everything he had during his three years grappling for the Redbirds. And he did it battling Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
“I felt like I paid it forward,” Broyles said of working at a recent camp for diabetics. “I want to give back.”
He did that and more. Broyles, 18 and a recent AHS grad, knows the feeling. He previously attended one of those camps and learned plenty.
“I went to a camp when I was 8 years old and I remember it,” he said. “So I applied to be a counselor for a camp last month.”
He certainly had his hands full.
“For a week, I took care of 7-year-olds — 8 of them,” Broyles said. “It was like a wrestling match itself because it was wild.”
The youngsters found out what Broyles discovered at age 7: diabetes is a constant battle, yet manageable. It requires the right frame of mind and the willingness to adapt, he said.
He added, “It’s never easy to get there and it’s 100 percent mind over matter.”
Broyles never has given in to diabetes and tries to explain that to others with the disease.
“There’s no sense in letting misfortune ruin your life,” said Broyles, heading to Lewis and Clark Community College this fall. “You have to take it on the chin like a man.
“It didn’t happen overnight for me. I used to whine a lot, but I developed a mental toughness. It didn’t come easy because I had to change my ways.”
Mostly, Broyles had to monitor his diet and sugar intake. Wrestling may have helped him do that since he always had to watch his weight. He was reducing it as needed.
“At one time, I was 158 pounds as a senior and I had to drop my weight to 132,” Broyles said. “I was growing so fast and had to adjust. I’m always checking my blood sugar.”
He pointed out, “I was always wrestling two different people — others and myself.”
“Connor is really a good kid,” AHS mat coach Eric Roberson said. “He’s very articulate and he does a lot of volunteer work in the community. He has had to grow up fast, but that has given him a good perspective on life. He’s very mature.”
Roberson, the new AHS assistant director of athletics, noted: “He did a good job of managing things and would fight his way through any episodes or problems. Connor would check his own blood sugar levels, so I didn’t have to do anything except keep an eye on him at times.
“I really never had to worry about him.”
When Broyles hit the mats, it seemed he always had his eyes focused on the biggest prizes. He went 43-5 the past season and just missed placing in the 3A IHSA finals at 132 pounds at Champaign. Broyles compiled a 37-10 record as a junior and also advanced to the state finals. Broyles also posted a 34-8 mark as a sophomore, giving up a sparkling 114-23 record in three years for the Redbirds. He attend Whitfield High in St. Louis as a freshman and registered a 40-14 record.
Thus, Broyles won 154 matches in four years. The highlight of his senior season could have been finishing first in the Bolingbrook Sectional. He followed that with a pair of victories at state.
Wrestling has been good for Broyles and he has been good to it.
“It teaches you to deal with adversity and loss and it also teaches you to keep driving and not quit until you are done,” he said. “It’s great for character building.”
Broyles is building his character, block by block. He plans to major in business or marketing at LCCC. He’s learning to become an insurance agent and intends to make that his vocation.
LCCC doesn’t offer wrestling, but Broyles intends to keep in touch with his favorite sport.
“I’d like to become a wrestling official because I never want to get away from the sport,” he said.
Nor does he want to shun his knowledge about fighting Type I diabetes. He’s fighting the good fight.
“It takes a lot of self-discipline,” he said. “I went to tell those with Type 1 diabetes to first talk to your doctors. You think you are alone out there, but you aren’t the only one.
“You can be a normal person and do what you want to do. You could even be a sky diver, if that’s what you like to do. The only thing that can stop you is yourself.”
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