HomeSPORTSA deaf wrestler and self-described 'burden' finds his identity on the mat

A deaf wrestler and self-described ‘burden’ finds his identity on the mat

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With a spot at the state championships on the line last winter, Shane Maguire flipped his opponent onto his back and tried to understand his coach’s instructions.

“Coach was yelling at me, ‘Half the power, half the power!’ Dominion High withdraws the wrestler. “I stared at him for about 20 seconds wondering what he was saying until it registered — and I didn’t know how to do half of that.”

His unfamiliarity with moving, Maguire’s difficulty following guidelines, came down to genetics.

Maguire has bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, which affects his hearing, because the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged. Without wearing a hearing aid, he can’t hear many loud sounds — cats, fire alarms, birds, the high range of notes on a piano. It’s a rebellious trait that runs in his father’s family; His father’s uncle also had.

Maguire really has the focus for a speaker’s sound register. So, when he’s locked in to compete in a match, coach Billy Young yells at him from behind, making it hard for him to understand.

Considering the possible adversities, he handled it quite well.

In that Virginia Region 4C championship match last season, Maguire didn’t finish with a pin but came away with a dominant 11-3 victory by major decision to earn the Class 4 state championship spot as a sophomore.

Now a junior, the 113-pounder is 17-5 with eight technical falls and hopes to return to the state championships, where he won his first match last season and reached the quarterfinals.

“Truly, I am thankful that I am deaf. And it sounds weird, but I say I’m grateful for that,” Maguire said. “I had to learn this really important life lesson from day 1.”

Maguire began wrestling as a freshman, in part because of his relationship with Young, who also teaches physical education at nearby Seneca Ridge Middle School. Young attended Maguire in seventh grade and was impressed by its independence.

“Once you get to know him, you start to understand – he’s more mature than most. Mentally, he’s more mature,” said the 19th-year coach.

Part of Young’s class included a demonstration by Dominion wrestlers to introduce middle-schoolers to the sport.

Maguire remembered this when he entered high school in 2020, and he was tired of being, as he put it, “kind of a nerd, playing video games all day.” He wanted to try something new, so he submitted his email address to a list for students interested in wrestling.

“I completely forgot about it after I did it,” Maguire said.

Because of the pandemic, the Titans didn’t start practice for their truncated season until Dec. 1, and after the holidays, Young had a weight class that needed to be filled. He went down a list of students who showed interest in wrestling, emailing each one. Maguire was the only one in attendance, and his lighter frame made him a good fit for the opening at 106 pounds.

“He was thrown to the wolves,” Young said. “It’s tough enough because it’s first-year guys. He came when even the new guys had four weeks of experience.”

Maguire quickly became the Titans’ 106-pounder — before he knew the weight class, the rules of wrestling, or even what a singlet or headgear was.

“I just noticed — wow, I really suck,” Maguire said. “But these other guys who have been doing it for two or three years look like pros. I wanted to be the guy I was looking for when I just started dating other people.”

Maguire now acts as a mentor to those new to the sport.

Sophomore Sammy Andrade, like Maguire, began wrestling his freshman year and was among the Titans’ lighter grapplers. The two began training together last year, and Maguire has helped him learn the intricacies of wrestling. They videotape each other’s matches at the meeting and later discuss how they can improve.

“He’s the guy I first started wrestling with. Everything he taught me, everything I know,” Andrade said.

In a tri-meet between Dominion, Rock Ridge and Lightridge last week, Maguire noticed that Andrade was on top and his legs were stuck, so he quickly explained a concept called “leg riding.” Andrade took his practice partner’s advice and ended up winning his match.

Another Maguire mentee is fellow junior Chris Lunsford. The two had been friends since eighth grade, and once Maguire began wrestling their freshman year, he began recruiting Lunsford, a lacrosse player who participated in indoor track during the winter. Lunsford joined the wrestling team this season.

Outside of Maguire teaching him American Sign Language, Lunsford doesn’t see him as different from anyone else on the team or at school.

“He’s very strong — both mentally and physically. He’s very resilient,” Lunsford said of Maguire. “I don’t think it’s a disservice to him. He never let it get to him.”

As a precaution, Maguire informed officials before each match that he was deaf. He recalls many instances when he made a move to take down an opponent, only to learn that the buzzer was already ringing. This is usually grounds for disciplinary action, but officials usually let him off the hook.

At a young age, Maguire had to accept his genetic condition. He can wear a hearing aid, but it can be harmful to his ears in loud environments – such as a wrestling gym. He has had several pairs of earpieces throughout his life and recently got new Bluetooth-enabled ones, which allow him to listen to music through his hearing aid.

Maguire began his ascension to the highest level of state wrestling, just one calendar year after he initially showed up at a Dominion practice under the impression that they would be wrestling Greco-Roman. Most of the information about the sport came from his father, who knew nothing about high school wrestling.

Now, it’s part of his identity.

“I feel like I crawled out of a cave and took control of everything. I’ve given myself a life now,” Maguire said. “If I didn’t wrestle, I’d be unknown. Wrestling has been for me.”

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