Lynden Wilson was a freshman in high school when doctors told him he had cancer.
"At first, I didn't really know what it meant," Wilson said. "I wasn't that aware, but I knew it killed people. When they told me I had cancer, I thought I was going to die."
Wilson went to Children's Hospital in St. Paul for surgery and chemotherapy. Because he was young and strong, doctors gave him the highest dosage they could, calling it "dirty and done." The cancer went away.
Wilson went back to Hastings High School and the sport he loves.
"When I got to go back to wrestling, it felt like home, because I was good at it," he said. "After the treatment, I won a couple of varsity matches."
Then, the end of his sophomore year, cancer returned.
Paul Vaith, assistant wrestling coach and assistant principal, said the school has a ropes course and Wilson's strength enabled him to navigate the course easily.
"After he had chemo, it zapped his strength, so he couldn't hold onto the ropes," Vaith said. "Through his entire junior year, he was trying to wrestle without any grip strength at all. In a sport like wrestling, that is really hard."
Wilson said he learned what holds he could use, even with no grip. He worked on those techniques and mastered them. With physical therapy and determination, he regained his grip strength for his senior year.
"It helped me a lot this year, because I could use what I learned last season, and use it when I could grip," Wilson said. "It was way better."
Vaith watched Wilson wrestling and said he "kept working and working, and he came back his senior year and won the section and made it to the state tournament. It is a true testament to his resiliency, his ability to battle through tough situations."
For years, Wilson and twin brother Mac, two of the captains on the team this year, weighed exactly the same. That meant they were in the same weight class and at open wrestling tournaments, they were sometimes paired against each other.
"We just flipped a coin, because we didn't want to wrestle each other," Wilson said.
After the cancer, they are no longer in the same weight class. This year, Mac wrestled at 152 pounds. Lynden competed at 132, but added that during treatment his freshman year, he had dropped as low as 115.
During treatment, Wilson had extended stays at the hospital several times. "My mom was there the whole time with me," he said. "My dad had to work to earn the health insurance, but he would come in when he was done with work."
Friends came to visit him and classmates sent messages of encouragement. People from the community helped, and "there were a ton of people donating money, so we got our letterman jackets," he said.
Wilson said his class schedule this year is "fully loaded." He has AP Calculus and AP Physics and psychology. He is considering serving in the National Guard, but definitely wants to "go to college at some point in my life to study aviation, because I want to be a pilot," he said. "I want to explore the world."
Vaith said Wilson has been a leader in the school, a team captain, a class officer.
"He is the type of young man that you want your boys and girls to look up to," Vaith said. "He came in on top of the world, and then he got knocked down, got up, and got knocked down again, but he just kept battling. The internal strength that this young man has is so far beyond his years."