A supporting teammate sprinted to the mat to get a hold of Luis “Luie” Gomes. With a huge smile on his face, Luie held his arms open and his teammate embraced him and lifted him up. As the packed bleachers of Trumbull High School in Connecticut chanted, “Lu-ie, Lu-ie, Lu-ie!,” he was carried into the stands. Students ran over to Luie and celebrated with him, but he had his eyes glued on one person who was pushing and shoving through the crowd trying to make his way to the superstar: his father. Luie’s dad, Luis Gomes Sr., finally made it to Luie and embraced his son. “I love you son, you are my hero.” Those words came from Gomes Sr., and they were followed by tears from both Luie and his dad.
“It was a truly beautiful moment,” said Gomes Sr., “and I am so proud to have shared it with such a beautiful person who is my son.”
Luie had just lost the first wrestling match that he had ever been in. So why was the moment so special? Why was everybody cheering with sheer passion? Why was this so emotional? Luie, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age, was never supposed to wrestle. Heck, he was never supposed to walk. However, Luie was also never supposed to give up, and he never even came close to doing so.
Luie, who is now a freshman at Springfield College, certainly knows about hardship.
“When he was a baby, he couldn’t even hold himself up without his arms turning purple,” his mother, Maria Gomes, said.
According to webmd.com, cerebral palsy impairs the control of movement due to damage in the developing brain. Muscles in the body are weaker than in someone without the disorder. Cerebral palsy affects some cognitive skills as well. Luie had to use a walker for assistance during his primary and secondary schooling (now he uses a motorized scooter to get around Springfield College).
Luie explained his difficulties. “I was always slower than everyone and I always needed help getting places,” he said. “Sometimes, I just wanted to be like everybody else in school.”
Although Luie wished he could be like everyone else at times, he was very comfortable in his own skin. Often, students would approach Luie and ask what was wrong with him. Luie would look at them with pride and tell them it was just who he was and that he wouldn’t trade it for the world. That explains who Luie is perfectly: a strong, relentless, humble young man. There has never been a moment in his life when Luie did not embrace his condition.
“It has made me who I am today,” Luie said.
Luie’s strength is noticed the most through his wrestling story. Luie was a part of the wrestling team all four years in high school. However, he was always just the team manager. In his first three years he never, not even one time, got in a match. He stood on the sidelines, kept stats, and cheered on his teammates. He also worked his tail off. He would pay close attention at practice and learn moves by watching coaches and other players. Then he would go home and do his best to practice those moves. Luie wanted nothing more than to get on the mat and wrestle. Luie was told numerous times by doctors that he would never be able to wrestle.
He was told that there would never be a place on the team for him by his coaches. Luie refused to believe them.
“If somebody tells you that you can’t do something,” said Luie, “your only option is to prove them wrong and do it.”
Luie did just that. In his senior year of high school, Luie wrestled in 20 matches; he lost all 20. However, to Luie and his family, losing didn’t matter because, according to his coaches and doctors, he was never even supposed to be on the mat. To his parents, it was amazing to see Luie wrestle and they were ecstatic while watching him, especially the first time.
“The night Luie wrestled in his first match,” his mother said, “was easily one of the best nights of my life.”
Maria watched her son through his whole life and is amazed at his perseverance
She said, “Each time we see him struggle, we [Maria and Gomes Sr.] know that he will overcome it. Watching him wrestle was just another example. I knew how badly he wanted it and watching him try to get there was jaw dropping. It was remarkable to see the dream become a reality. All I could say is, ‘That’s my boy.’”
Through his journey, Luie always looked up to one person: Nick Newell. Newell is a professional mixed martial arts fighter who has one hand and a career fighting record of 12-0. Luie met Newell on Twitter and was told something that to this day he never lets slip his mind: “I know what it’s like to be at the bottom, but now I’m at the top and I refuse to let anyone take that away from me.” Luie lives by this quote and repeats it to himself during difficult times.
Some of those difficult times are experienced at Springfield. Transitioning to college has not been easy for Luie. He feels like people look at him differently and wonder why he is in a scooter. Classes are difficult also. He feels stressed and pressured to do well, and sometimes it is overwhelming. However, Luie has been blessed with a great roommate. Brad Eisenhut has done a lot to help Luie out.
“I have to get his plate at Cheney [Springfield’s dining hall] and I have to sprint to keep up with him when he’s in his scooter because he is like Dale Earnhardt Jr. in that thing. It’s tough because I had to help him transition, but I was transitioning too and I just feel lost sometimes.”
However, at the end of the day, Eisenhut has been changed for the better by Luie. Luie’s energy and passion for life amazes Eisenhut. It is a trait that he wishes he could possess himself. Even through some of the tiffs and tough times, Eisenhut appreciates Luie and loves him like a brother.
“He has taught me so much,” said Eisenhut. “I look up to him and admire his work ethic and motivation toward everything that he does.”
Luie is a physical education and health education major and aspires to be a gym teacher and a coach one day. He understands that this could be difficult considering his condition, but he has proved many people wrong before, so why shouldn’t he be able to do it again? He struggles to keep up with others in some of his classes, but he refuses to quit. He walks around campus and goes to class everyday with an Under Armour hat that says “Never Give Up” across the back. Luie is not the type of person to let his disability get in the way of success. He is not the type of person to allow his disability to control what he does and doesn’t do in life. Luie is not the type of person to let people tell him he can’t do something. Luie is the type of person to set goals that are unachievable and find a way to achieve them.
As Luie likes to say, “If people aren’t doubting you, your goal isn’t big enough.”