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Path To Greatness: Shepherd's Matt Delong overcoming obstacles, one pin at a time

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Being a pre-teen is difficult enough already, but being a pre-teen who's different can be downright brutal. At Shepherd Middle School, 8th grader Matt Delong was born with a condition called atopic dermatitis, caused mostly by allergies, it causes severe, painful eczema flare-ups that resulted in some scary moments for his parents Sarah and Randy Delong.

"When he was born," Sarah recalled, "he was a healthy 8 pounds, you know, normal. But I couldn't breast feed him, he was allergic to my breast milk. As he progressed in age, toddler years the eczema would flare up."

Dealing with the problem took them all over the state. "We went to Ann Arbor for his eczema," said father Randy. "The University of Michigan said it was the worst case of eczema they ever saw. They took multiple pictures of it to show other people, they just didn't know what to do with it."

At this point both Matt and his family have his diet figured out, but as a child he endured some bullying from his classmates. "Some kids that are new to our school always asked me what it is and I just tell them and they all think it was cool to pick on me. But then they just stopped doing it because I had a lot of friends that would tell them about me and they just stopped doing it and became friends with me."

Matt's condition came with another problem too.

"We went down to Devos near Grand Rapids," said Randy. "They did a lot of testing, his bones are that of an 11 year old and he's 14. His body uses all his testosterone to fight all of the infections in his skin. So at night he has to inject himself with HGH to help him grow."

HGH, or, Human Growth Hormome is neede for kids to maintain a normal growth rate. But at 14-years old, Matt it 4'4", and he weighs a mere 75 pounds. But he doesn't let his skin, or his size slow him down, instead, he uses it as motivation. Buthis next challenge will be his freshman year of High School. In order to wrestle he needs to weigh a minimum of 103 pounds, which puts Shepherd wrestling coach B.J. Cline in a pickle.

BJ says, "There is going to be a bit of a minimum he has to weigh before he can wrestle, it may be a few years before he gets to wrestle in high school but yeah, he will have to get his weight up a little bit."

People have been telling Matt he can't do things his whole life, and during that time he's proved them wrong time and time again. His positive attitude and the support of his family keep him going through the tough times.

"They tell me to just keep pushing and to keep motivating myself to keep wrestling because I'm good at it."

And he'll keep proving people wrong one pin at a time.

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