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Wahpeton High School wrestling team members wear t-shirts in support of West Fargo's Keegan Cronin last Friday night at the Packer gym. David Samson

Cronin backed by wrestling community

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Cronin backed by wrestling community
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West Fargo junior Keegan Cronin has a long road ahead of him, but he is not going alone.

The Packer wrestler, who turns 17 tomorrow, was diagnosed with Stage 4 testicular cancer two weeks ago. Since then, he and his family have received an outpouring of support from wrestlers, coaches and parents from across the Midwest.


“I’m overwhelmed by it,” Cronin’s father, Jim, said. “Wrestling is a community not really defined by boundaries, but by work ethic and brotherhood. We have people all across the state that have been Keegan’s competitors or teammates, people he has wrestled in South Dakota and Minnesota all coming behind him and sending messages.”

The issue came to light after a nagging injury would not go away, eventually getting worse. The decision was made by Cronin’s doctor that the testicle needed to be removed. Pathology reports then found the cancer in the cord of the testicle, and further tests confirmed that the cancer had spread to Cronin’s lungs and lymph tissue.

“I didn’t think something like this could happen to someone in our wrestling family,” senior wrestler Kollin Kragnes said. “I know he’ll fight through it, though.”

Cronin began chemotherapy last week, effectively ending his wrestling season. However, he plans to attend as many matches as he can, and watch the rest on an iPad using Skype. While he can’t be on the mat, his family believes wrestling will play a major role in his recovery.

“It’s a distraction, but it also provides some normalcy,” Jim said. “Life goes on, and wrestling goes on. To be a part of it whenever you can is great.”

The team’s performance won’t be the only thing helping Cronin along, as numerous wrestlers and coaches from throughout the region have offered their support. On Friday, the Wahpeton Huskies came to West Fargo wearing T-shirts that read “We’re in Keegan’s Korner.”

“We have always respected the West Fargo wrestling program,” Huskies head coach Kelly McNary said. “They are very good on the mat, and they are good people off the mat. If you look back over the last few years, they have been pretty fortunate in the wrestling room with their talent, but you look outside the wrestling room and see that they have had some tragic things happen to their team. You can see it pulls them together.”

The Packer Backers have made shirts as well and, as of Friday, over 1,500 shirts have been ordered, including 24 purchased by the Packers greatest competition in the state: the Bismarck Demons.

“When I first heard about the T-shirts, my first thought was to order 24 for my wrestlers and coaches,” Demons co-head coach Scott Knowlen said. “We plan to get them at the state tournament and we plan to wear them in support.”

According to Knowlen, the decision to buy and wear the shirts for the season’s end was an easy one.

“The typical thought of any parent is to think ‘what if it were my kid?’ It is pretty easy to emphasize with the Cronins and it really puts perspective on the things that are important.”

“Wrestling is a unique sport in that we are a family,” Packer coach Kayle Dangerud said. “That is evident by the 1,500-plus T-shirts that have been ordered by over a dozen teams throughout the state. That is a amazing.”

Despite the support from throughout the area, Cronin can probably expect the most support a little closer to home, mainly from his friends on the Packer wrestling team as they strive for their third straight state championship.

“He is one of my best friends, and it hurts to not see him out there with us,” Kyle Kragnes said. “We are going to stay in his corner and push him through this. We want to do it for Keegan, and he wants us to win as much as we do.”

Anjelo Shepherd, the Packers’ 145-pound senior, is confident that Cronin will recover, thanks to the mentality he has developed on the mat.

“He is a great wrestler, and he never gives up,” Shepherd said. “We just have to pray for him and stay behind him.”

Senior 195-pounder Tanner Kuznia is also sure Cronin will come through, especially after seeing Cronin is of that fact.

“After seeing Keegan, I saw that he was cheerful, and he knows he can beat this,” Kuznia said. “We know it too.”

Daniel Determan
(701) 451-5717