Can you imagine heading into a wrestling match without being able to see your opponent? That’s the reality that Ezequiel Garcia deals with every time he steps on the mat.
The 16-year-old sophomore at Westview High School in Avondale, Arizona is also wrestling with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), along with congenital night blindness, which keeps him from being able to see his opponent while wrestling. Ezequiel was diagnosed with RP when he was 13 years old.
“RP prevents me from seeing anything without my glasses from a distance, and gives me tunnel vision,” said Ezequiel.
Ezequiel started wrestling his freshman year at Westview High School and moved up to the varsity team as a sophomore. Before each meet, Ezequiel has to show the officials his medical documentation that allows him to start the match in contact with his opponent.
“At first, wrestling was hard and uncomfortable due to my sight, but I have learned to use my other senses which has helped to build my strength and confidence,” said Ezequiel. “Wrestling has taught me how to defend myself and has also given me more confidence to walk without using my cane.”
In addition to being on the wrestling team at Westview, Ezequiel is also on the swim team and plays trumpet, French horn and flugelhorn in the band. With all of Ezequiel’s extracurricular activities, he’s still an Honor Roll student taking many honors courses.
When Ezequiel is not busy with school, he spends the majority of his free time volunteering in the Phoenix community. Ezequiel first got involved with the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Arizona VisionWalk after he saw a brochure at his doctor’s office soon after being diagnosed with RP. Ezequiel is now on the Leadership Team as the Youth Chair for the Foundation Fighting Blindness Annual Arizona VisionWalk.
“The Foundation Fighting Blindness and VisionWalk have helped me build my confidence with public speaking and has given me access to become a role model for other children,” said Ezequiel. “I’ve also learned a lot about different studies and cures for retinal diseases that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Overall, being involved with the Foundation Fighting Blindness has given me so many opportunities to meet amazing new people in my community.”
The 2017 Arizona VisionWalk was held in late February. It raised over $78,000 to-date to support vision-restoring research!