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Gustafson Honored for Saving OP Wrestler

When April Gustafson walked onto the floor at Patriot High School, Melissa Cooper wanted to start clapping right away, but she knew it wasn’t quite time yet. Her impatience was understandable; she hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet, let alone applaud the woman who helped to save her son’s life.

Gustafson Honored for Saving OP Wrestler

When April Gustafson walked onto the floor at Patriot High School, Melissa Cooper wanted to start clapping right away, but she knew it wasn’t quite time yet.

Her impatience was understandable; she hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet, let alone applaud the woman who helped to save her son’s life.

“I didn’t know who she was,” said Cooper.

Gustafson, a Forest Park parent, was among the group of first responders that administered life-saving measures to Cooper’s son Nick after he collapsed Feb. 2 while wrestling at the Cardinal District tournament.

And just before the start of finals at Saturday’s Northwest Regional wrestling tournament, Osbourn Park head coach Mike Spudic, his team, and Mrs. Cooper led a presentation to honor Gustafson.

After announcing that Nick is currently recovering in good condition, they presented Gustafson with an edible bouquet, card, and a signed and framed photograph of the OP wrestling team. Nick, sporting his trademark smile, is hard to miss in the middle of the shot.

Mrs. Cooper, who described the last week as a “rollercoaster ride,” cherished the chance to express her gratitude.

“It was an overwhelming joy,” said Cooper of the opportunity to thank Gustafson.

But among Cooper and others there was a sentiment that no gesture could go far enough to express their feelings towards the woman who saved Nick Cooper’s life.

“It was nice to let her know that we care, but there’s nothing we could do to let her know how appreciative we are,” said Alex Gowers, a friend and teammate of Nick's.

Melissa Cooper noted that the outpouring of support for her son and family flooded in from varied and at times, unexpected places.

“There have been prayer chains [for Nick] all across the world, in Costa Rica, Alaska,” said Cooper.

Early in the week, the outlook became decidedly positive for all the parties involved.

“As of Monday, when they took the respirator out, and took him slowly out of sedation, he’s climbed and climbed,” she said of Nick’s condition.

It didn’t take long for news of Nick’s improvement to reach his Yellow Jacket teammates, immediately providing a shot in the arm for a tightly-knit but weary community.

“Our spirits were immediately lifted,” remarked Spudic, who also said his team used Monday’s wrestling practice as a temporary reprieve from the stress of the weekend.

While Nick wasn't cleared to leave the hospital in time to catch Saturday’s action, he never drifted far from the minds of his teammates.

“Every time I stepped on the mat I was thinking of him,” said Sean Badua, Osbourn Park’s lone regional champion at 113 pounds.






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