Van Kley: Foundation honors fallen soldier and the sport he loved

Updated: October 10, 2017

(The following appeared in the Oct. 10, 2017 issue of WIN Magazine

Wrestling prepares you for life … and death.

If you’ve been a subscriber to WIN long, hopefully you’ve been able to read numerous stories that illustrate that point that have also reminded you of how the sport has impacted you. Here’s one of the powerful and heroic “former wrestler stories” I’ve ever heard.

Many people remember the explosive attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in September of 2012, when several Americans lost their lives protecting U.S. dignitaries. It was such an intense battle involving former U.S. Navy SEALs and Army Rangers that the movie “13 Hours” was made honoring those who were involved in the incident.

And one of the key U.S. heroes who lost his life serving our country there was a former wrestler, state of Oregon place-winner Tyrone S. Woods.

The movie is incredibly intense and you can get a flavor for the heroism Woods and his comrades showed in the attack simply by pulling up the trailer on the Internet. But this column isn’t simply about the events of the attack and their remarkable heroism, rather the foundation that has been set up to honor Woods and how his legacy continues on.

A group of eight men and women with ties to the Oregon wrestling community formed the Tyrone Snowden Woods Wrestling Foundation in 2015, based out of Oregon City. It’s a 501c3 non-profit and they’re all 100 percent volunteers with a few simple goals: continue on Tyrone’s legacy; help provide wrestling opportunities for young people to start wrestling; and providing finances when possible for existing wrestlers to have more opportunities to compete.

“We decided as a group that we needed a way to honor Ty’s legacy and try and share wrestling, a sport that provided so much direction in his life,” said the foundation’s communication director, Army Captain Chad Plaisted. “The bottom line of our mission is to help get kids on the wrestling mat so they can be more prepared for the challenges that life is going to present them.”

The foundation started its fundraising efforts locally in Oregon and now has taken their efforts nationally into the wrestling community. Donations can be made through their Facebook page’s PayPal account, at Tyrone.S.Woods.Wrestling.Foundation.

Plaisted said the foundation has used past donations to help a wrestling club and sent a few thousand dollars to an Oregon high school when bad weather cancelled a main fundraising tournament. The group has also helped cover individuals’ tournament costs as they’ve traveled around the country. Each season, the foundation awards $1,000/year for four years to an Oregon high school state tournament participant selected based on academic excellence, citizenship and wrestling achievements.

Woods was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his heroism while serving in the Middle East from 2005-2010. He was a SEAL from 1992-2010, and then served as a Civilian Contractor after retiring from the SEALs until the fatal attack that took his life as they were defending the U.S.’s diplomatic mission and CIA Annex in Libya. Plaisted said Woods’ wrestling roots were a critical part of his life and was fundamental in molding his character for his career of military service.

“Throughout Tyrone’s career, he attributed the success he had in the Navy to lessons he learned in the wrestling room,” he said. “If you want to be a Navy SEAL, or a green beret or an Army Ranger, or a Marine, and you don’t know how to prepare yourself for that, the best place for that is in the wrestling room.

“That’s where you can learn to be a warrior, where you can sweat, and bleed, and fight and fail and learn to overcome adversity, and sacrifice for a greater good; pushing yourself beyond limits you didn’t think were possible.”

This fall, the foundation hosts the third annual memorial wrestling tournament to start the season at Oregon City and they also have a spring golf tournament in Woods’ honor. Also, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a former U.S. Army Ranger who was in Benghazi with Woods and survived the attack, has helped to get high-profile donated items to the Foundation, which has then been auctioned off to raise money.

There’s also been wrestling donations too. Adidas Wrestling’s Tom Sculley donated a choice of either autographed Jake Varner or David Taylor wrestling shoes to the group to use at a fundraiser. The foundation is now seeking both monetary donations as well as other wrestling items that could be auctioned. The foundation also will be an exhibitor at the WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show during the NCAA Division I Championships next March in Cleveland.

Plaisted has an interesting story as well. He’s likely the oldest college wrestler in the country this year at 33. Still in the U.S. Army himself, he got reunited with his college coach from the University of Oregon in Chuck Kearney and is using his last year of eligibility at an NAIA start-up, the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. Kearney calls him “Gramps” as he stands in as a wrestler-coach for the rest of the team who is mostly in their late teens.

Plaisted said the biggest thing the foundation needs this year in addition to financial support is help getting the word out. Anyone’s efforts in wrestling that can use Social media to get Woods’ story and the foundation’s contact link out is greatly appreciated. Their website is www.tyronewoodswrestlingfoundation.org and they can be reached at Info@tyronewoodswrestlingfoundation.org.

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