Home ♃ Recent Stories ☄ Double-Amputee at 3 Months Old, Hasaan Hawthorne’s Heart of a Champion

Double-Amputee at 3 Months Old, Hasaan Hawthorne’s Heart of a Champion

2701
0
Hasaan Hawthorne: accomplished wrestler, upstart professional (Harper Nichols Photography)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Hasaan Hawthorne was born without shinbones and had his legs amputated at three months old, but his disability would not keep him from wrestling or succeeding in anything else he put his mind to.

In 2016, he won the Alabama’s state high school wrestling championship, capping off a 37-0 undefeated season, for Pelham High School. Today, works in special projects with Canvas, a tech company based in Hoover, which sells lamps for content creators.

Hawthorne started wrestling in the sixth grade after trying a variety of sports–football, baseball, swimming, track–but none of them fit him.

“Track was okay. Football was eh, and wrestling just intrigued me because I knew I wasn’t good, and I was getting beat up, and I was very upset about it. At the same time, it was like, ‘I want to go again,'” Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne, 25, grew up in Pelham alongside his brother Chase, who is five years younger. His parents are Demond, a tax accountant, and Felecia.

Early in his life, Hawthorne said, he was given a wheelchair, which his parents wanted him to use. However, that’s not his style, he said. “I couldn’t sit still. It actually got to a point where my parents…stopped trying to go by the book. They let me just play and figure it out from there,” Hawthorne said.

Around the age of two or three, though, Hawthorne started using prosthetic legs, he said.

Hawthorne, an avid World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) fan, said he was first introduced to the traditional sport when he attended a wrestling tournament in which two of his friends were competing.

Simply watching the warmups got Hawthorne interested, he said.

“For a lot of wrestling warmups, it’s a lot of forward rolls, cartwheels, handstands, et cetera, and I was like, ‘I can do that. I do that at home, just joking around,'” Hawthorne said.

After seeing some of the warmups, Hawthorne said, he asked his friends’ mother if he could join in. She said “yes,” so he started doing cartwheels and handstands with the rest of the competitors.

Once Hawthorne joined his own wrestling team at Riverchase Middle School, coaches went to work, training him as they did his teammates but with various tweaks to accommodate Hawthorne, who never used prosthetic legs during his wrestling career.

The Training Curve

For Hawthorne, the “training curve” was always steep, and that first year was “rough,” he said. “Not good. Had a lot of L’s,”

In his early wrestling days the thing that kept him going with wrestling was a desire to simply understand the sport,” Hawthorne said.

“Growing up, it was just wanting to figure it out. That was the whole thing, just figure it out. Take everything you get, from wins, losses, practice, videos, learn to apply it,” Hawthorne said.

Additionally, he said wrestling was a way of going on a “revenge tour” for the anger he had experienced, including his anger at the people who had pointed and laughed at him for his disability since kindergarten.

“Growing up, [wrestling] was just payback, kind of taking everything out that I’ve endured, and then still wanting to win. Even when I started winning, and had some success, my mindset never changed. It was still like, the target was on everybody else’s back.”

The transition from home, where there was understanding, to school, where other students might be hostile to Hawthorne was confounding, he said.

“It was very weird I go from a house that understands, and go to school where you’ve got random people just being mean for no reason,” Hawthorne said.

A win-focused athlete, Hawthorne highlighted his first tournament win as his first success. He secured the win during his sophomore year at the Pelham High School Invitational in 2013. “That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, I think I could do this for real,'” Hawthorne remembered.

Though Hawthorne dealt with a significant amount of anger from how some people treated him, his disability didn’t keep him from building and maintaining a lot of friendships, he said.

“I ran with everybody for real, of course, all the athletes. I hung out with a lot of athletes that I’ve known from younger ages, but at the same time, I had a lot of friends from school, from different sports. I’m a very popular person,” Hawthorne said.

The Power Of His Story

Toward his later years with wrestling, Hawthorne said, he started to change his understanding of why he participated in the sport. Instead of being motivated by anger, Hawthorne was motivated by power of his story, he said.

“As I got older, and more mature, I realized, ‘Okay, there are some other people like me, I’d like to be the spokesperson that I wish I had, not really spokesperson, but someone who walks, so somebody else can run,” Hawthorne said.

In 2016, the year that Hawthorne won the state championship, his father Demond told AL.com that people were regularly inspired by Hawthorne’s wrestling. Scott Verner, who previously coached Hawthorne in football, said the former wrestler was a model for others.

“If everybody gave their heart and desire into doing what they want to do like he does, they’d be a lot more athletes out there that are phenomenal. He does more with his heart and desire than anything else,” Verner told AL.com.

After winning the state championship in his senior year, Hawthorne graduated from Pelham High School in 2016, and headed off to North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on a full-ride wrestling scholarship.

In 2019, Hawthorne received his associate degree in communication before attending Hastings College in Nebraska. Hawthorne graduated from there in 2020, with a bachelor’s degree in communication.

In 2021, Hawthorne started as the marketing director for Next Step Prosthetics and Orthotics in Alabaster. And in August of 2022, he started a job in special projects with Canvas, a tech company based in Hoover, which sells lamps for content creators.

For more on Birmingham-area residents succeeding with disabilities click here