Minnesota teen lighting up wrestling mat — despite missing most of his right arm
Willmar high school junior Carson Eichhorst is doing well for the Cardinals, one of three sports he participates in while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
WILLMAR, Minn. — In a sports-crazed family, Carson Eichhorst more than holds his own.
And though he was born without a full right arm, Carson has always found a way to make it work on the athletic front.
A junior at Willmar high school, Carson is a wrestler at 113/120/126 pounds who has seen time on both varsity and junior varsity this winter.
He’s also a goalkeeper for the boys soccer team. And he’s a high jumper and throws discus for the track and field team.
“Since I was born this way, it’s the only thing I’ve known,” Carson said. “I’ve never had to make any real adjustments; I just found a way whenever I was little and stuck with it.”
Carson’s parents, Brandon and Rachel, saw nothing out of the ordinary pop up on ultrasounds before he was born. On Carson’s end, he’s never complained or questioned being born with one arm. He just goes full effort into everything he’s done, whether it’s athletics or in the classroom where his GPA hovers around 4.0.
“We’ve always known Carson to never give up; we never treated him any different,” Brandon said. “He’s always taking on everything he’s come across. We learned that early on.”
When Carson was 5, a free soccer clinic opened the door for Carson to get into athletics.
“We decided to take the afternoon and go and do it,” Brandon said. “Ever since then, he has definitely caught on. And he pretty much picked the one position no one would ever guess.”
That would be goalkeeper: the one position on the pitch where you can use your hands. He’s played the spot for 10 years now, relying on reaction time and reflexes to keep the ball out of the net.
“I was kind of pushed into keeper when I was younger; usually they push kids that are bad to that,” Carson said. “I turned out to be better at that position than everyone else.”
In third grade, Carson wanted to give wrestling a go.
“(Dad) was skeptical at first,” Carson said, “but he let me try it and I liked it.”
Coaching Carson was a challenge at first for Cardinals wrestling coach Ed Oehlers. Teaching tie-ups and headlocks to a one-armed wrestler was a conundrum.
“You watch him and go, ‘Gosh, how can I help this kid?’” Oehlers said. “Even in the weight room, I’ve talked to him and tried to figure things out and think, 'OK, well maybe this will work.'”
Having one arm was never going to be an excuse for Carson, so it wasn’t going to be an excuse for the wrestling coaches. Oehlers’ strategy is to monopolize the things that Carson is best at so he can find success on the mat. Along with the coaches’ help, Carson credits teammate Ivan Mares with teaching him some different moves that Carson’s adapted to make work for him.
“A lot of it comes from his own desire,” Oehlers said. “He tries things out on his own and has that willpower that he wants to do it. He wants to have fun and he’s always been part of the crew. He’s one that’s always there.”
Oehlers added, “You want that heart and desire from all the athletes.”
Carson started the season wrestling on the varsity at 120. His first match was a fall over Anoka’s Owen Rhode in 39 seconds.
“It was pretty exciting,” Brandon said about Carson making his varsity debut. “He’s been waiting for that moment for a long time.”
He went 3-8 on varsity before going down to JV in mid-January. He absolutely wants to make it back to varsity. Carson made his case on the JV, going 6-3 at that level while competing at 120 and 126.
The Hutchinson junior varsity invitational on Jan. 21 was Carson’s best showing in the regular season. After winning by fall in his first match, he took on the top seed in Minneota’s Bretten Coequyt. He ended up winning that match by fall in 2 minutes, 57 seconds.
“I looked at the bracket and saw I had to wrestle the first seed,” Carson said. “In my mind, I just thought if I beat this kid, it’s smooth sailing from there.”
Carson was dead on. He pinned Waseca’s Peyton Sommers in 23 seconds to reach the final. Facing Becker’s Jackson Fischer in the final, Carson won an 8-3 decision.
Carson’s parents were getting text updates from him during the meet. They were at an event for his younger sister, Kianna. Kianna is a freshman at Willmar. She plays on the girls soccer team and like Carson, Kianna plays goalkeeper. She also competes in girls basketball and softball.
The oldest Eichhorst sibling, Isaac, is a freshman on the cross-country and track and field teams at Valley City State University in North Dakota.
“He kept texting about each of his matches,” Brandon said. “As he went through that bracket, he was pretty excited.”
“It felt pretty good,” Carson said about taking first at Hutchinson.
It’s never wise to underestimate Carson. Even with one arm, he'll find a way to hold his own through grit and determination.
“He’s pretty special,” Brandon said. “He’s a go-to kind of guy.”