When Determination Meets The Mat: Freshman Wrestler Alexander Baumann Strives to Reach His Goal

Steven Baumann prides his family in being humble. “Arrogant” is not in the Baumann vernacular.

However, in the case of his son Alexander Baumann ’15, there are just a few things to brag about.

This isn’t just because he’s a part of the JV wrestling team. Nor is it just because he is “awesome,” as Alexander Baumann himself proclaims.

“We think he’s our gift from heaven,” Steven Baumann said. “Some parents with special needs children don’t look at them that way—well, we look at him that way.”

Alexander Baumann has Down’s syndrome, a disability that has kept him from participating in sports. However, as soon as he got to high school, Steven Baumann said his son was quick to join Unified Sports, where he was recommended to try out for wrestling.

“At first, I didn’t want any of the other kids to be held back because Alexander was on the team,” Steven Baumann said. “But [Head Coach] Kevin [Lippert] was absolutely adamant.”

Coincidentally, Lippert, in addition to being a wrestling coach, is also a special education teacher in Norwalk.

“I just know you have to be very specific,” Lippert said. “You have to literally move him where you want him to go.”

According to Lippert, this learning process has led Alexander Baumann to acquire one solid move in every position. However, because of his disability, Alexander Baumann still isn’t able to play in any match beyond an exhibition.

According to Steven Baumann, Lippert finds someone from the other team who can control the match and lets the wrestler know who he’s about to face, so there are no surprises on either end of the mat.

“They don’t understand what’s going on at first,” Steven Baumann said. “However, they pick up pretty quickly that it’s not just any kid out there.”

Although he hasn’t been keeping tabs, he estimates somewhere around 2-1 odds that his son will win. However, it’s understood when a fellow wrestler defeats him.

“All we try to do is be respectful, and that’s all we ask,” Steven Baumann said. “We understand these teams are there to win championships, not to support students with special needs.”

Nonetheless, Alexander Baumann still puts in his work, spending an hour a day at home lifting up to 55-pound weights, doing push-ups and sit-ups, as well as putting the standard work in with the team.

And Lippert has taken notice. Although Alexander Baumann already came in strong for his weight, Lippert says he’s only improved since joining the team.

“He weighs 112, 114 maybe. You can usually feel a guy who’s 114 is a lot lighter. Not Alexander,” Lippert said. “When he’s on top of you, with the pressure he’s putting down, it feels like he’s at least 160.”

Although Alexander Baumann hits the gym on his own, some of his teammates help out in his work as well. According to Steven Baumann, Alex Kogstad ’13 is constantly taking Alexander Baumann onto the mat and helping him out, an act that he deems “above and beyond.”

“We just work on rolling, I teach him that he needs to roll over,” Kogstad said. “It’s the thing that he’s been having trouble with, so that’s where I put my focus.”

And, while he helps teach Alexander Baumann, Kogstad feels his teammate has something to teach,  as well.

“No matter what he’s doing, win or lose, he’s always smiling,” Kogstad said. “We have kids everywhere we go who comment on how happy he looks, always.”

But it hasn’t always been smiles. According to Steven Baumann, up until now the social scene has been a rough one for his son. That changed, however, soon after he began wrestling and joined Best Buddies.

“Earlier this year the girls from Best Buddies came to a match with a big cardboard sign saying ‘Alexander Baumann Rocks’ in big letters,” Steven Baumann said. “It just makes him feel great about himself.”

“I rock,” Alexander Baumann confirmed with a thumbs up.

Alexander Baumann is quite the character.

“I am honest, I am the smartest, and I am the boss,” he said.

“You’re the boss?” his father asked.

“Always,” he replied with a smile.

However, after describing himself as normal and strong, he paused and said: “But I’m a different guy.”

“How so Alexander?” his dad asked.

“My face,” Alexander Baumann said. “A little.”

Yet, even with his disability, he’s able to get out there on the mat and wrestle—something Steven Baumann says constantly amazes him.

“I shouldn’t limit my expectations,” Steven Baumann said. “I shouldn’t say he’d never be able to do something.”

And with this sense of pride comes a wish, as well.

“Sometimes you realize there’s more to it than just pinning someone,” Steven Baumann said. “You become a man, you look inside yourself a little more.

Still, with all Alexander Baumann is able to achieve, Steven Baumann insists on remaining humble—though his son is not always completely in agreement.

“Sometimes he gets a little cocky out there,” Steven Baumann said. He smiled at his son from across the table. Alexander Baumann grabbed his hand.

“But I love every minute of it.”