David Grant knew it was the right thing to do.
The 16th-year Westerville North wrestling coach was an assistant with the program when Matt Simmons was a two-time Division I state qualifier. Now he believed helping out was appropriate after the 2000 North graduate was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) last spring.
The Warriors placed a bucket at the gate during their two home dual matches this season to raise money to aid research of the progressive nervous system disease that weakens muscles and limits physical function. Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, it has no cure.
"I wouldn't have thought of anything else," Grant said. "The family has been a part of Westerville North for years. I coached Matt when he was here and their youngest son (2003 graduate Kristopher Simmons) helped us out as a coach and the mom (Betty Simmons) worked at the high school for years. It's a great family."
Matt Simmons, 37, went on to wrestle at John Carroll and became a member of the Ohio National Guard reserves. In 2006, he took a teaching position at Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, Florida, near Tampa. He led the wrestling program and was a social studies teacher as well as being a member of the Florida National Guard reserves.
He was diagnosed with the disease in March 2019, five days before the birth of his second daughter, Addie Jo. He and wife Erika's other daughter, Arella, will be 3 in March.
"Matt started having symptoms in August 2018 such as stumbling, or if he was running he would fall," said Betty Simmons, whose husband is Don Simmons. "When you're in the military trying to do 15-mile hikes, that makes it kind of hard.
"There are three types of people that seem to contract ALS: athletes, people who have served in the military and people who had seizures as a child. Matt had all three. They say that you only live three to five years after being diagnosed, so that's why research is so important. Maybe we can help find a cure or at least slow it down."
The buckets placed at North during OCC-Buckeye Division duals against Olentangy Orange on Jan. 16 and Olentangy on Jan. 30 raised $940.
Westerville Central coach Jerry McSwords, who led North's program from 2000-02, had a collection bucket when the Warriors competed at Central on Jan. 9.
"Matt was a coach's wrestler when he was (at North)," McSwords said. "He was a driven kid who always wanted to do better than his older brother (1997 North graduate Brian Simmons).
"We passed around the bucket when we wrestled North (on Jan. 9). We decided on a bucket like they used in the Ice Bucket Challenge (fundraiser that gained momentum in 2014). We raised $300 that night and I raised $200 through my Facebook page. We're still trying to raise money, and maybe we'll be able to do it when we wrestle at (Westerville) South (on Feb. 13). That would be great."
McSwords said he planned to participate with the Simmons family in the 20th annual Walk to Defeat ALS on Sept. 27 at Coffman Park in Dublin. Betty Simmons said she will be taking part in a similar event March 7 in Tampa, and she also plans to walk in another fundraiser May 2 at the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima.
North athletics director Wes Elifritz hopes the bucket will be filled during North's final fundraising event, the Jon Post junior varsity tournament Feb. 22.
"Betty is one of our best ticket-takers for our athletic department and when she told us about Matt, we started talking about ways we could help out," Elifritz said. "She came up with the idea of doing this for our home wrestling matches in the winter and again in our Jon Post tournament.
"It's a great way to honor Matt and everyone struggling with this terrible disease. He's an alum so we had to help. Once a Warrior, always a Warrior."
Boys basketball team battles injury bug
The boys basketball team will finish the season without one of its starters in junior guard/forward Camden Ledford.
He sustained a broken wrist after averaging 9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals. He last played in a 51-44 loss to Olentangy on Jan. 24.
The Warriors snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating Logan 40-35 on Jan. 28. Charles Perkins scored 14 points and Caleb Iheukwu added seven points and five rebounds to lead North, which was 9-10 overall before playing Dublin Coffman on Feb. 4.
Chace Perkins scored 15 points and Noah Lawrence added 10 as the Warriors dropped to 3-4 in the OCC-Buckeye by losing to Olentangy Liberty 62-47 on Jan. 31.
Girls team seeded sixth in district
The girls basketball team is seeded sixth for the Division I district tournament and opens Feb. 15 at home against 37th-seeded Grove City in the first round.
North had an eight-game winning streak snapped when it lost to Liberty 57-45 on Jan. 31 to drop to 6-3 in the OCC-Buckeye. Alyssa Wright scored 18 points with three 3-pointers to lead the Warriors, who were 16-4 overall before playing Coffman on Feb. 4.
Emoni Finch scored 15 points with four 3s and Charia Smith added nine points as North defeated Big Walnut 48-33 on Jan. 28.
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. Westerville South. The Warriors lost to the Wildcats 60-57 on Jan. 3.
*Feb. 7 -- Home vs. South. The Warriors lost to the Wildcats 52-34 on Jan. 3.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Feb. 8 -- Division I sectional at Kenyon. The winner of each event and 27 at-large qualifiers in each event based on times from the Central, East and Southeast sectional sites advance to district Feb. 13 at Ohio State. There is no diving at sectional.