Nik Hoot will be a junior this year at Woodlan Junior/High School, located in the tiny town of Woodburn, Indiana. Since junior high, Nik has participated in his school’s wrestling team, and this year came within one point of qualifying for the semi-state competitions. Remarkably, he has accomplished all this by wrestling from his knees, since his right leg ends at his knee.
Nik is the biological son of a couple from Russia. However, his parents decided during the 1996 pregnancy that they did not want their child, and attempted to abort Nik at 24 weeks gestation. Miraculously, he survived the abortion procedure, but not without a price: he lacks full legs and his fingers are only partially formed.
Following the birth, Nik’s Russian parents put him up for adoption, and he was chosen by the Hoot family from Indiana when he was 15 months old. Nik is not the Hoots’ only adopted child—five of their nine kids are adopted, three of whom were originally from Russia. And, not counting Nik, the Hoots have three children with physical handicaps.
Nik first joined his school’s wrestling team after Ged, his legally blind younger brother, took up the sport. Though his coach says Nik struggled at first, much training and persistence paid off, and now Nik is a formidable wrestler.
“It’s difficult and challenging because there’s no video out there to study, no Internet. There are no books,” Tony Girod, Nik’s wrestling coach, told Indiana’s Journal Gazette. “You can’t relate something you’ve always done that has worked in your career or you’ve seen somebody has done. You can’t just pick those things out for Nik, because, obviously, Nik’s Nik.”
Through working with Nik, Girod has developed a sincere appreciation for the dedicated teenager.
“I really wish every single one of [Nik’s wrestling opponents] could sit and have a conversation with him because he has a very bright sense of humor and he’s an all-around great kid and fantastic personality,” Girod told The News-Sentinel. “They would realize once they sat down with him that he’s a pretty special kid.”
Though Nik wears prosthetic legs on most occasions, he has learned how to effectively wrestle by removing the artificial limbs and remaining on his hands and knees. And while he admitted to The Journal Gazette that “simple things like running fast” will most likely never be possible for him, he has learned to appreciate his knees-to-the-floor wrestling pose.
“I don’t see it as being difficult,” he said. “I look at it as being an advantage, because I wrestle people with both their legs all the time, so I know everything they can do. But when they look at me, it’s completely different. I always just try to be as quick as I can, and I know what to stay out of. Because if I get in a particular situation, I know that they can get me down.”
In an interview earlier this year with reporters, Nik’s mother shared that some people complain when she openly discusses how Nik was forever damaged by the abortion attempt. But, in response, she often asks, “How can you not talk about a child who’s survived an abortion attempt?”
“He’s living proof that that’s not a blob of tissue; that’s a living human being in there,” she stated, “and your choice is affecting that child.”
Photo: Facebook/Apryl Hoot