David Han Overcomes Blindness as a Wrestler at Cupertino High School
Sophomore David Han had always wanted to participate in judo, but none of the schools he attended offered the sport. In sixth grade, he decided to give wrestling a try.
“[My interest in wrestling] goes way back,” Han said. “[History teacher Jay Lawson] was my middle school coach. When I first walked in, he said, ‘Oh, this is going to be a really good sport for you.’”
Wrestling soon became one of Han’s favorite activities. It provides an emotional outlet, a way to bond with his peers, and the discipline helps him maintain his grades. Though being blind and being an accomplished athlete may sound like an impossible combination, Han is both.
Wrestling is a challenging sport on its own. Requiring strength and stamina as well as fast reflexes, it is a sport of quick decisions and rigor. Take away the athlete’s sight and it becomes much more grueling. But even with his disability, Han has wrestled successfully for several seasons, including two at the school. The only rule that changes when Han wrestles is that his opponent must stay in contact with him for the duration of the match, and Han admits that even with this modification, the sport can still be very difficult.
“When my opponent’s going for a move, there’s a split second where I’m really vulnerable,” Han said.
Athough he feels vulnerable at times, Han has learned to cope with his difficulties. He has worked with his coach to develop strategies to combat this moment of susceptibility. Practicing these techinques on a daily basis, Han is accustomed to using them aganist his most formidable opponents.
“I try to get close and use angles, because if I’m far away, I can’t tell where [my opponent] is,” Han said. “Instead of coming straight in, I will step to the side a little bit and then come in.”
Han started to prepare for the current season long before it actually began by running with his teammates. He is hoping that the current season will be more successful than last year’s, during which a fractured rib sidelined him for several weeks. On top of his injury and withdrawal from the team, the team’s overall performance suffered due to a lack of camaraderie. However, he still remains optimistic awbout the upcoming season, and thinks highly of this year’s team.
“Our team wasn’t very together last year…but I think this year’ll be a blast. There’s more bonding,” Han said.
Through wrestling, Han has formed some close friendships that might not have been possible otherwise. Many people, he explained, shy away from those with disabilities simply because they are different.
“But when you’re on the mat, if you beat someone, they tend to respect you more,” Han said about his teammates. “And it just helps them realize that I’m the same as other kids.”
Wrestling has proven to be a valuable resource for Han. He stays healthy, both mentally and physically, and connects with his peers. Despite his handicap, Han has become one of the school’s most well-respected athletes and a force to be reckoned with.