February 5, 2013

Area schools' teams incorporate those with disabilities

Wrestling was a big part of Derek Carnes’ family history.

So he continued the tradition, even with just one leg.

The former Murray County High School student graduated in 2010 and spent four seasons in the Indians’ wrestling program, competing at the varsity level his sophomore year. He did this with a prosthetic left leg, and he is one example of a handful of student-athletes in nearby high schools who are competing or have competed at the varsity level despite either mental or physical disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Education is directing all public schools to provide more opportunities for students with disabilities in interscholastic sports. It’s a clarification of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s Section 504, which tells schools “that access to interscholastic, intramural and intercollegiate athletics is a right.”

The new initiative asks for reasonable changes to rules, so long as it doesn’t affect the game.


Carnes thrived beyond any accommodations made in practices and at competitions. He was born without a fibula in his left leg and had an amputation from the knee down. In practices, he wrestled with a prosthetic leg. In competitions against other schools, he left it off the mat.

He wrestled for 15 years, something he was brought into from family history.

“I wrestled everybody at practice,” he said. “There wasn’t much I could do. I learned every day in practice.”

He is a student at Georgia Northwestern Technical College with a degree focus in business management. In high school, he focused on being the best wrestler he could be.

“Wrestling was a big thing in my family,” Carnes said. “My dad, grandpa and uncle did it. I was always big in sports. My dad asked if I wanted to do it and so I tried wrestling.”

There have been others with disabilities, too, but coaches within the public schools system declined to give names, citing student privacy laws.

“We’ve had a student, I guess it was about 3 or 4 years ago, his vision wasn’t that great,” Northwest football coach Josh Robinson said. “He ran track for us and did pretty good (in one of the relays and as a long-distance runner).”

Said Dalton coach Mike Duffie, “Physical disabilities? No. Mentally challenged? Yeah, through the years I’ve had kids who had learning disabilities. ... Not only have they made the team, but they’ve been good players.”

There were some challenges for Carnes. His moveset was limited and in practice there were some moves such as leg takedowns that Carnes’ partner couldn’t practice on him. And in competitions, there were some opponents who did not know how to handle wrestling him.

“There were some people who said, ‘What the heck do I do?’” Carnes said. “There were some who wrestled as long as I had and knew what to do. Some were freaked out but some wrestled me normal.”

And there was the two last years when he didn’t make varsity due to injuries, including fatty tumors on the remainder of his left leg that caused staph infections. But he still won a wrestleoff his sophomore year for the Indians’ 138-pound varsity spot, an example that his disability did not entirely keep him from competing with able-bodied students.

Text Only
  • Todd roasted 1 mlh.jpg One last 'Goodbye' for coach Todd

    Charles Todd talks to parents and coaches before his going-away party Tuesday in the Dalton High School commons area.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fishing Lures3cw.jpg Turner lured into love of learning fishing business

    Fishing and tall tales go hand in hand, and after nearly three decades in a business supplying local anglers, Phil Turner has heard just about all of them.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Amateur dreams over for local golfers

    Dalton golfers Chase Miller and Will Morrow traveled to Cincinnati on Tuesday in an attempt to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but neither earned one of the three qualifying spots at the 6,588-yard, par-70 course at Camargo Club.

    July 23, 2014

  • Report: Boggs now with Giants

    Dalton’s Mitchell Boggs has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants, according to Contract information, along with which minor league affiliate Boggs, a pitcher, will start with, was not available in the report, and Boggs was not listed on any of the online rosters for any of the Giants’ minor league affiliates.

    July 21, 2014

  • SE wrestling practice 5 mlh.jpg Herndon leaving Raiders to coach at Calhoun; new coach named at SE Whitfield

    Michael Herndon’s successful three-year run as Southeast Whitfield High School’s wrestling coach has come to an end.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Hipp makes cut at qualifying tourney

    Chatsworth golfer Colby Hipp earned the chance to play on today in a U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament at Reynolds Plantation-Great Waters in Eatonton.

    July 21, 2014

  • 7on7 day 2 '14 17 mlh.jpg Devin Golden: Friday signals gridiron days’ official start

    Seven-on-seven football was a good placeholder, but it’s time to begin talking about the real thing.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • CCAC-B&W.jpg CCAC has strong showing at 14-and-under state meet

    The Carpet Capital Aquatics Club had 16 club records broken in a 12th-place finish at the 2014 Georgia 14-and-under Long Course State Championship meet Saturday at Georgia Tech’s swimming facility.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Loran Smith: Golf now in era of McIlroy after Open

    Royal & Ancient officials, under whose auspices the Open championship is conducted each year, were blessed with a sun-kissed start of the final round of the 143rd playing of this historic event.

    July 21, 2014

  • Motocross kid 6 mlh.jpg Dirt, gas and guts

    Lucas Amos is like a lot of other 6-year-olds who will be going into first grade at Tunnel Hill Elementary this school year.
    He likes to play the video game sensation Minecraft, building different structures and fending off zombies when the sun goes down. He likes to spend time with his grandparents, traveling around the Southeast with them most every weekend.
    And he likes to play in the dirt.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo