High School Sports

A mother’s strength: South wrestler Kasdon Arehart learns to fight from his mom

South High junior Kasdon Arehart, right, with his mother Tami. Kasdon Arehart is the top-ranked Class 6A wrestler at 220 pounds and has found strength through his mother, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and survived.
South High junior Kasdon Arehart, right, with his mother Tami. Kasdon Arehart is the top-ranked Class 6A wrestler at 220 pounds and has found strength through his mother, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and survived. The Wichita Eagle

Kasdon Arehart was finished with wrestling.

He had poured so much mentally and physically into last season to maintain an undefeated record and was devastated when the perfect season crumbled at the state tournament.

“Wrestling is like dog years,” Arehart said. “One year of wrestling is like five years of any other sport. So to go that far and to have that heartbreak, yeah, I didn’t want to wrestle anymore.”

Arehart, now a junior at South, will return to Hartman Arena on Friday as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the 220-pound division in the Class 6A tournament.

This comeback was not Arehart’s alone.

The fight to return and chase a championship was learned from his mother, Tami Arehart, who has lived through three bouts of cancer and overcome a death sentence delivered by doctors.

“I feel like if I just have an ounce of the fight she has, then some day I could be a champion, too,” Kasdon said. “She’s already won the biggest fight anybody could ever fight.”

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The first diagnosis came in 2011, when Kasdon was 12 and in middle school.

Tami Arehart discovered she had a type of cervical cancer. No problem. She completed the chemotherapy and conquered cancer.

Three months later, doctors said the cancer had returned. So Tami underwent chemotherapy again and defeated cancer again. But doctors delivered a grim message after the cancer returned for a third time, again three months after completing chemotherapy.

“I was told there was nothing they could do for me,” Tami said. “I was put on hospice and told I only had a couple of months to live.”

“She was put on her death bed,” Kasdon said.

But Tami never lost faith and neither did her family. Kasdon remained by her side every day, helping his mother with the daily battle. It was that special connection that Tami said helped inspire her.

“I wanted to see Kasdon graduate high school and I wanted to make sure I went to all of his sporting events,” Tami said. “I had never missed one of his sporting events, so that was important to me.”

A couple of months later, Tami was still alive. Another few months passed and she had long outlived the doctors’ timeline. Finally, after 10 months of hospice care, Tami was told she was healthy enough to begin living on her own — the first time they had someone graduate from hospice.

The cancer had subsided and has remained absent.

“They still have no clue to this day,” Tami said. “They said I was a miracle. I can still remember how excited our family was when I got the news. I think Kasdon was the happiest.”

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Tami Arehart had never seen her son so demoralized after a tournament than Kasdon was after placing fifth last year at state.

“He was in a major funk,” she recalled. “He wanted to quit wrestling, but I told him he needs to fight through everything that he does. I think that kind of changed his outlook.”

So Kasdon went to work to piece himself back together.

“I worked on what I needed to work on,” Kasdon said. “It was a whole new Kasdon in the room this year.”

Arehart has taken three losses this season, but he feels like he is more prepared to win a championship this time around. He is 39-3 this season and 105-15 in his career.

“With Kasdon, it’s more about the mental side and we’ve talked about battling through adversity,” South coach Brian Westhoff said. “He’s been a different wrestler this year, especially in the last month. His focus has been really good and he’s starting to wrestle like I know he can wrestle.”

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Kasdon Arehart has a new perspective on life now.

He doesn’t think he would be the wrestler he is today without going through last year’s heartbreak, just like he wouldn’t be the same person without living through those months afraid of losing his mother.

“I learned that life can throw a whole bunch of rocks at you,” Kasdon said. “But if you pick up those rocks and hand them back, then you’re going to accomplish what you want in life.”

Tami has fulfilled her goal of attending every one of Kasdon’s sporting events. This weekend’s state tournament will be an important one.

“Every time I tell him to fight, fight, fight,” Tami said. “I think me fighting my cancer has shown him that the can fight and win, no matter what anybody else tells you.”

On Friday, Kasdon will wear as much pink as he can, not only to honor Tami, but also in solidarity with a teammate whose mother is currently battling cancer.

He likes wearing pink now because he reminds him to fight — fight like his mother.

“I feel like I have something to prove this weekend,” Kasdon said. “There will be a lot of emotion wrapped up in it and I feel like if I do win now, it’s going to be 10 times better.”

Taylor Eldridge: 316-268-6270, @vkeldridge

State wrestling tournaments

  • Friday and Saturday
  • 6A, 5A: Hartman Arena, Park City
  • 4A: Tony’s Pizza Events Center, Salina (formerly Bicentennial Center)
  • 3-2-1A: Gross Coliseum, Hays