FLORENCE -- After recovering from a life-threatening injury, Florence Falcon Kyler Alm was brave enough to call it quits on his football career in hopes of a healthier life down the road. Now he's back on the wrestling mats looking to finish his high school career on top.
In the Falcons' 2018 final regular-season football game against Missoula Loyola, Alm took a hit that ultimately resulted in a subderal hematoma causing him to collapse on the sidelines. After a long recovery, Alm was cleared to play football in the fall of 2019, his senior season.
However, during the second game of the year, Alm took another big hit. This time he was fine, but something came over him.
"I just thought to myself, 'Is it really worth it?'" said Alm. "I took my helmet off and looked my mom in the eyes, she knew I was done right there. It was probably one of the best decisions I've had to make, but also one of the hardest ones, too."
While Alm decided to call it quits on his football career, he still had wrestling. Alm has wrestled all throughout high school but has now been able to turn his full attention to the sport.
The Florence boys practice in a garage at the end of a dirt road on the property of Shan Jones, the father of 2019 state champion Spencer Jones. The Falcons are a close-knit group of kids, and many played football with Alm for three years.
"Everybody knew what happened, they just brought me in with open arms and made me feel welcomed. Coming back into it, I actually have two cousins wrestling. It's just awesome I can come in here and call these guys my brothers, pretty much because they've always been there for me," Alm said.
So far in 2019, Alm has had a solid season. He has an overall record of 15-2 with 11 pins. While Alm decided to stay away from football in hopes of evading injuries, wrestling is still a physical sport and one where serious injuries can occur.
"Playing football was a risk I had to take with someone trying to hit me. Granted, when you have wrestling, you may get returned and hit on the head, but it's not intentional," Alm said. "You know the kids aren't just going to try to come hit you. It's going to happen in a freak accident, if it does."
While Alm is having a successful season in wrestling, it's still hard for him to completely forget the game he played for so many years. He misses the game of football, but he's still able to realize the upside of leaving the game.
"I think of football all the time," said Alm. "I think about what I could have done different or what I could have done to prevent this. At the end of the day, I look at it as a learning lesson. It is what it is, I can't change it now. I just got to keep on going and keep on doing what I was supposed to do and hopefully win a state title."
When Alm looks back on the road he traveled to get where he is today, it's obviously a long and winding one with more obstacles than expected. However, he's able to block out the negatives and use the past as motivation for all that lies ahead.
"The journey I took, it's been a long one," he said. "I'm just glad I'm still able to be here doing this. As long as I can, I'm going to do it. It's pretty humbling when I can look back and on what I've been through and hopefully what I can keep going forward."