By Eva Hollenberg and Jessica Nicholson
Weighing in at 120 pounds, with legs that end at his hips, a right arm that stops just below his elbow and a left arm that’s shorter still, Dustin Carter, a 20-year-old quadruple amputee, proved why he has what it takes to be a champion: He has the right attitude.The audience fell silent as Carter made his way across the stage of the O’Donnell Auditorium on Tuesday night. As he sat himself up on the edge of center stage, Carter looked out at the crowd, smiled and raised his arms into the air.
“College is the shiz-nit,” Carter said, as the audience began applauding.
When he was 5 years old, Carter said he contracted meningococcemia, a bacterial infection of the bloodstream. His mother rushed him to the hospital after discovering he had a temperature of 104, his lips were turning purple and his limbs were starting to turn black. He stopped breathing, his heart stopped beating and he had to be brought back to life three times before he was finally stabilized.
In the midst of the heartache of possibly losing his son, Carter said his father found his way to the chapel of the hospital and prayed for a miracle. An hour later, his son’s vital signs had improved.
Two and a half months later, Carter left the hospital free from the infection and faced life full of obstacles.
Following his amputations, Carter said he found himself getting into trouble, fighting with his father, missing out on sports and feeling as if he didn’t fit in.
“I hate waking up every day and having people treat me differently,” he said.
As he got older though, Carter began approaching the situation with a fighter’s mentality.
“You can do anything you set your mind to, don’t give up on what you’re doing and don’t make excuses,” he said. “If I would have given up, I would never have stories to tell and experiences to share.”
“You only get one life, and life is freakin’ sweet.”
At the age of 14, Carter told his father that he wanted to wrestle. He began training in eighth grade and continued wrestling at his high school in Hillsboro, Ohio.
During his freshman year, Carter won just four matches. The results were similar during his sophomore year and although he had improved, he said his record after his junior year still wasn’t good enough for him.
His dream was to make it to the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament.
“I set a goal from day one and it was going to State,” Carter said. “I didn’t think about girls, or what I was going to do that day. All I could think about was wrestling.”
During the summer before his senior year, Carter said he spent all of his time training. His dream was to make it to the state tournament, and he wouldn’t settle for anything less.
“Every morning I woke up and asked myself what I was going to do to improve myself and get to State,” Carter said.
For five years, Carter said he taught himself everything there was to learn about wrestling and stuck to a rigorous workout and diet plan with the help of his trainer.
During his senior year, Carter recorded 12 wins before losing his final match in the state tournament. He lost the match 6-5 to a wrestler who was ranked 3rd in the state and 6th in the country.
“After that match I looked up at the crowd and everyone was standing and applauding me,” Carter said. “They usually only do that for four-time state champions.”
“It was the sweetest, most awesome experience of my life,” he said simply.
Aside from his triumphs on the mat, Carter is similar to most 20-year-old young men: He enjoys spending time with his friends, fishing, watching ESPN and of course, “the ladies.”
During the question and answer portion of his speech, Carter revealed some of the daily tasks he struggles with.
“Cleaning, I hate cleaning,” he joked. “I’m the messiest guy in the world and I have been told that I’m pretty bad at running the vacuum cleaner.”
Brenda Keltner, a sophomore high school education major from Lynchburg, Ohio, said she was inspired by Carter’s presentation.
“We went to school in the same county, so I have had the opportunity to hear his story before and he is such an inspiration,” Keltner said. “Even with a disability, he’s a normal, regular guy and can relate to us well.”
Carter is currently attending a community college in Ohio and plans to eventually go to a four-year university to wrestle. He’s majoring in communications, but said he’s taking his time to decide exactly what he wants to do next.
“I thought about (writing a book), but I want to wait till the next chapter,” Carter said. “I don’t think my story is finished yet.