Threat of blindness and diabetic concerns don’t stop the Lammer twins

Updated: December 21, 2011

By Sandy Stevens

Chad Lammer underwent a corneal transplant at age 4. Mike Lammer has been a Type I diabetic since age 11. But as eighth-grade, they told their parents, “We want to wrestle.”
“And we just stuck with it,” Mike says now. “We love it!”
Now 17, the Lammer twins enter their senior season as returning co-captains of the Ephrata (Penn.) High School Mountaineers. As juniors, Mike posted a 23-12 record and Chad finished 22-12, while qualifying for the regional AAA tournament.
Wrestling with their challenges, though, hasn’t been simple.

Chad Lammer, a junior at Ephrata (Pa.) High School wrestles with a mask after undergoing eye surgery.

Chad’s troubles began in 1999, when he was accidentally hit in the eye with a PVC pipe.  He went into emergency surgery that night. “The following day, we learned he needed a corneal transplant,” said the boys’ mother, Tammy.
Multiple surgeries followed, including a lens replacement. For the next eight years, Chad wore a patch over his good eye to strengthen the injured one. Through elementary school, he added the protection of safety glasses.
“When he came to me wanting to wrestle, I was extremely nervous,” Tammy said. “It had taken us years to strengthen his eye, and with one poke, his lens could be displaced or (he could suffer) a scratched cornea, and then we would be right back to the beginning.”
His surgeon wasn’t on board either, but Chad was adamant about the sport dad Rob had joined during high school in New York. Finally the doctor begrudgingly gave his OK, stipulating that recreational glasses and a full facemask be worn at all times.
Ephrata Middle School Coach Greg Larson was diligent in making sure Chad wore that protection during drilling and live wrestling, Tammy said. “He trained Chad to not feel bad about being different, but to excel because of his difference.”
Varsity head coach Josh Clair told the young wrestler about Jon Trenge, a three-time NCAA All-American for Lehigh, who wore protective goggles after suffering retina tears.
“(Josh) has continued to build on Chad’s strengths,” Tammy said.

Twin brother Mike Lammer (right) was diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

Twin brother Mike’s problems surfaced when he began losing weight and sleeping more than normal. Diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, he was immediately hospitalized, hooked up to IVs and spent four days in training to deal with the disease.
“We had to learn about diet, how to read the ingredients on food boxes and how to measure his food,” Tammy recalled. Mike would also require insulin shots four to five times a day.
“I was very concerned about his weight and how intense workouts would affect his blood sugars,” Tammy said. “Coach Larson placed Mike in a weight class that was his natural weight and allowed Mike to test his blood sugars throughout practice to maintain safe levels.
“Keeping his sugar levels in a safe range on tournament days can be very difficult,” she said. “Mike has learned to adjust his diet and to control his adrenaline rush through quiet meditation.  Coach Clair works closely with Mike and also puts him in a weight class that is close to his natural weight.”
“Cutting weight is not an option for him,” stressed Josh, who projects Mike in the 145-152 range. “He made the decision to spend a lot of time in the weight room and get bigger so that he may wrestle at his natural body weight so that weight loss doesn’t become an issue.
“All of the coaches can tell when his numbers are off-kilter by simply looking at his facial expressions,” said Clair, who had a diabetic football teammate at Lock Haven University. “Regardless of the situation, if his blood sugar numbers are not where they should be, we hold him out of the match for his safety.”
“All of the coaches on the staff have been amazing in supporting both Chad and Michael,” Tammy added. “Wrestling is a sport that the kids and coaches come together and help each other; they are fierce competitors on the mat and friends when they are off the mat.”
Clair said the coaches quickly saw the boys’ natural ability. “They were performing high-level moves that they were never taught by simply reacting to situations they were placed in,” he said.
“They took to the sport very quickly and soon became the most dedicated wrestlers that I have ever coached.”
“I always liked wrestling around with my brother,” said Chad, who expects to compete at 138. “Now there’s the achieving more, the physical mindset and the physical aspect.”
“When it comes down to it, it’s just you on the mat, and you’re the one who decides what the outcome’s going to be,” added Mike.
“I could not be more proud of their accomplishments and their ability to overcome obstacles,” Tammy said.  “They look at obstacles as an opportunity to learn something new.”
Both boys have played soccer, thrown the javelin and been pole-vaulters. They also followed their 15-year-old brother Sean (who’s considering attending a performing arts high school next year) to the dance studio.
The twins discovered that hip-hop provided a good abs workout, Tammy said, but they especially enjoyed partnering dancers in swing, salsa and disco.
“I think they really liked the girls,” she said.
Chad and Mike say they hope to continue wrestling together in college, as Chad pursues a degree in exercise science and Mike, in earth science.
“We’ve always been partners,” Chad said. “It just seems right that we would go to the same school and wrestle.”

(This story appeared in the December 23, 2011 issue of WIN. Click on “Subscribe to WIN” or call our office at 1-888-305-0606 to order a subscription.)