Solon Youth Wrestling names 40-pound wrestler with heart condition rookie of the year

Wrestler overcomes heart birth defect

SOLON, Ohio - Seven years ago in a Massachusetts hospital, Holly and Bill Boykin found themselves in the midst of a life-changing event.

The birth of their new baby, Eric, had gone smoothly, much like the births of her other two sons. But they had to leave their new son in the hospital following a blood oxygen test that alerted their pediatrician to possible problems with Eric's tiny heart valves.

"We didn't know about any heart issues until we were about to take him out of the hospital. The pediatrician said, ‘Oh, we hear a heart murmur, you're not going anywhere.'"

Holly was forced to quit her job to deal with multiple surgeries until Eric was three and half years old. He's been nothing but fulltime energy since, though will likely need to see a cardiologist for the rest of his life. His heart valve will stabilize as he grows, but possibly never be 100 percent.

"That's why it's really important to catch these things early. That's one reason why I've been involved in health (advocacy) since," said Holly. "There's a bill right now in Ohio, Senate Bill 4. What it is, is the first way to check for a child's blood oxygen level is a simple test and it's not a requirement now for babies to check out of a hospital. I'm working with Mended Little Hearts of Northeast Ohio and the American Heart Association to make that a requirement." 

Ohio and many other states have seen student-athlete deaths from undiagnosed heart problems similar to what the Boykins' son Eric has. The Boykins, along with Ohio Sen. Tom Patton, who lost a grown son to an undiagnosed heart problem, are hoping for Senate Bill 4 to pass.

Meanwhile, Eric, who had two heart surgeries, has been tearing up opponents in his first months as a wrestler in Solon's Youth Wrestling league. Doctors cleared Eric for the sport.

His older brothers are happy he has found someone else to wrestle. Winning several awards in every tournament he's entered, Eric recently finished in the top 16 in the state championship in the 5 and 6-year-old category. Now 7 years old, Eric's goal is to bulk up all summer heading toward next season.

"My first thought was, should I really let him, can he do something else?" Holly laughed. "We're a sports-oriented family. His two older brothers play multiple sports, football, baseball, wrestling, basketball. We love sports, so there's no holding him back."

Officials at Solon Youth Wrestling aren't about to hold him back either, naming him co-rookie of the year at their sports banquet on Monday following a first-place finish at the Edison Tournament in Milan, Ohio.

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