Huron County View

Heart of a champion

Caiden Geiger doesn’t let loss of his sight define who he is



Bad Axe’s Caiden Geiger has his hand raised after a recent home victory. The sophomore is experiencing a successful first season in wrestling, posting a 26-6 record through last weekend. He has done all of this despite the loss of his sight.

Bad Axe’s Caiden Geiger has his hand raised after a recent home victory. The sophomore is experiencing a successful first season in wrestling, posting a 26-6 record through last weekend. He has done all of this despite the loss of his sight.

BAD AXE – Caiden Geiger was born a fighter.

When the Bad Axe sophomore, 15, was just six weeks old, he faced open heart surgery.

He overcame it, and for the next 14 years, lived a normal life, enjoying sports, hunting and many other activities.

Last April, a new battle emerged for Geiger, when on a visit to the optometrist, it was discovered that the sight in his left eye was nearly gone.

It was something he and his family had hoped to avoid, as a similar affliction struck his brother Caleb, just a year prior.

Geiger’s sight went quickly, but the loss of it has barely slowed him down.

In the fall, he traded in soccer for cross country.

Currently, he would be on the ice playing hockey, but he swapped the skates in for wrestling shoes.

“I kind of knew it might happen, but you can never really be prepared for it,” said Geiger.

Despite the setback, Geiger has maintained an amazingly positive attitude. He doesn’t dwell on “why me” or “what could have been.”

With his teammates and coaches cheering on, Caiden Geiger wrestles against Capac’s Gabe Peters. He would go on to secure the win with a pin. Geiger lost his sight less than a year ago, but continues to enjoy sports and many other activities. (Photos by Paul P. Adams)

With his teammates and coaches cheering on, Caiden Geiger wrestles against Capac’s Gabe Peters. He would go on to secure the win with a pin. Geiger lost his sight less than a year ago, but continues to enjoy sports and many other activities. (Photos by Paul P. Adams)

“My approach is to make this work in my favor,” Geiger said. “I want to continue doing the stuff that I like to do. You just kind of take the negative thoughts and try to turn them into positives.”

No official diagnosis has been given for Geiger and his brother.

It is thought that the cause for robbing the brothers of their sight is Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON).

Geiger’s mother and father Stephanie and Tim Geiger described how the family has helped Caiden cope with the loss of his sight.

“It was devastating at first, but we had gone through it already with Caleb, so we maintained a pretty positive outlook,” said Tim. “The big thing was trying to remain positive. We switched sports and can still have fun and be active.”

He added: “The thoughts and questions are there, of course, but you can’t change anything that’s happened in the past, you have to look to the future. We just keep pushing and fighting.”

Added Stephanie: “Both boys have held strong on their faith, so that’s helped them get through all of this. What this brings out is not only what he’s gone through, but how everyone has come together to support him. Everyone says what an inspiration he is, but truly, we as parents are blessed to see how the community has embraced Caiden and Caleb. The support has been overwhelming.”

The Geigers credited the school district for quickly adjusting to accommodate their sons not only in athletics, but in the classroom and during other activities on campus.

Just the fact that Geiger is a visually impaired wrestler would be an inspiring story on its own.

But Geiger isn’t there to make token appearances – he’s on the mat to win.

At 106 pounds, he has filled a valuable spot for the Hatchets, where he has turned in a 26-6 record, with eight pins through the Wayne Brady Classic.

At the Wayne Brady Classic, he went 2-2, taking fourth place.

“My favorite part about this sport is if you’re athletic and you’re coachable, you can be good in a fairly short period of time, if you’re willing to put in the work,” said Bad Axe coach Adam Hollingsworth. “And he’s really not afraid of working.”

Added Hollingsworth: “For him to be able to participate in a sport like this and compete at the level he’s competing at, with a disability like that, it’s quite amazing. He doesn’t have the visual distractions, so it’s all feel for him. It’s been really fun to watch.”

Geiger had no idea what to expect in his first match, but with over 20 wins under his belt, he’s quickly learned.

“When I walked out for my first match of the year, it was a void and I didn’t know what was going on,” Geiger said. “I got my hand raised, didn’t smile and walked back. My second match, I won on points. When I got my first pin, I was like ‘Let’s go!’ I was very excited and happy.”

He added: “Now, I know when I win or get a pin, I think it’s awesome, and I make sure I smile for the picture. After a match, I start asking myself what I could have done better.”

Hollingsworth has welcomed Geiger to the team with open arms.

“I love having him,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s hard enough to fill a 106 spot, but we got a guy who can get it done. He’s a helluva athlete and I knew that. I’ve been trying to get him to wrestle since he was in seventh grade. He picks stuff up so fast. He listens so well, and he really doesn’t have the distractions that other kids do.”

He added: “The first time we saw him in competition, we didn’t quite know what to expect. So, to see him fight through and put into practice what we’ve been working on, was pretty cool. He’s got fight and drive. He’s really inspirational to watch wrestle, to overcome what he’s had dealt to him.”

Only a few adjustments had to be made to accommodate Geiger on the wrestling mat.

When he begins a match, he does so with one palm up and one palm down, while touching his opponent.

If he loses contact with his opponent, the match is stopped to reestablish contact.

“I teach him all the same stuff; we just have to put him in the right positions,” Hollingsworth said.

Jolie Brown serves as a captain on the team and has been wrestling for seven years.

She, along with her teammates, always make sure to tend to Geiger’s needs.

“When we’re trying to coach moves, we’re used to showing it and speaking it at the same time,” said Brown. “With Caiden, we show the moves on him as we speak. We start a specific way so that he always has contact with someone. Other than that, it’s all him doing it on his own.”

Brown and the rest of the Hatchets take turns being his guide and practice partners.

“It’s a little overwhelming sometimes because everyone wants to help me at practice,” Geiger said. “They say you should do this and that and I’m like, ‘One at a time.’ But they’re very helpful with everything.”

During a match, Geiger has honed the ability to tune into what his coaches are saying.

Being a first-year wrestler, understanding the terminology proved to be a bigger obstacle than being on the mat without sight.

“I’ve learned enough now, where I can understand the terms and visualize what’s happening,” Geiger said. “Sometimes, I can tell who is saying what, so I try to listen to the people I know. I know my teammate’s voices, I know my coach’s voices, so I listen to what they say.”

It’s not only Geiger’s teammates and coaches who have supported him, but his opponents have stepped up as well.

Recently, Geiger squared off with state qualifier Zachary Cowdry, from Cass City.

Cowdry pinned Geiger but was gracious in victory.

“The Cass City senior who pinned me, he guided me to his coaches and guided me back to my coaches,” Geiger said. “He was great. Everyone in wrestling has great sportsmanship.”

All of Geiger’s success on the mat has been earned, and that’s the way he prefers it.

“I know when I go out there, my opponent is not just going to fall to his back and let me pin him,” he said. “I know I’m going to have to work for it and they know they’re going to have to work for it too.”

Geiger has brought a missing dynamic to the Bad Axe wrestling team, according to Hollingsworth.

“The team has really rallied around him,” he said. “He’s been a real team builder. It’s really emphasized the team part of this sport for the kids. I really feel like he’s brought the team together, it’s been really good.”

Added Brown: “It’s nice to have him around, I enjoy helping him. It’s pretty inspiring, it’s really cool. I can’t imagine not being able to see and doing this sport.”

The Geigers are enjoying their time in their first year as wrestling parents.

They were of course very nervous during Caiden’s first match. But when they experienced that first victory, they knew he had made the right decision to become a wrestler.

“Everyone in the stands was clapping, we didn’t know exactly what was going on,” Tim said. “Caiden didn’t know he had won, until they raised his arm. I was very happy for him.”

Added Stephanie: “Seeing how the community has been reacting is what humbles us. It’s been a little family here with the wrestling team.”

Every time Geiger wrestles a match, there’s a certain buzz in the gym.

Whether it’s at home or on the road, those in attendance know they’re witnessing something special and that some of the mundane things that they complain about don’t seem all that important.

“I’m very proud of him,” Brown said. “I feel very close to him as a friend. It fills my heart up with joy. I love seeing him out there. I feel like it’s made me appreciate it more. It makes me more determined to be better. I have no excuses. He has an excuse, and he chooses to ignore it.”