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Brian’s Song

Brian Davidson never let being blind get in the way of anything he wanted to do

December 29, 2011
B.J. LISKO - Salem News Sports Editor ( , Salem News

Brian Davidson was born a fighter, and that's just what he did until the very end.

In 2007, the Salem wrestling legend was inducted into the Eastern Ohio Wrestling League Hall of Fame. Brian lost his sight and ultimately his eyes from cancer when he was just a year old. Doctors had always said it was likely the sickness would return.

The week preceding the induction was a difficult one. His cancer came back and Brian grew weaker.

"He kept saying 'I just don't think I can make it,'" his sister Joan Clark recalled.

But everyone knew better.

Brian wasn't one to let anything get in his way. His extraordinary life was proof of that. Being blind didn't slow him down. Not from wrestling, not from playing football or track or going to college, and not even from living a normal life that included riding motorcycles and eventually earning a living as a truck mechanic. In his life, Brian did everything anyone else could do and often more. There was no way he was going to let anything rob him of that recognition, not even cancer.

"It was such an honor to him," Clark said. "He was so happy and tickled. I think it was what made him hold on. He struggled through it that night, but he appreciated his coaches and all his fans and the community supporting him. He was so happy to be inducted in. That's what he lived for."

His friend and former coach at Salem, Dave Plegge, recalls the induction vividly.

"Those people just stood up and kept clapping," Plegge said. "I said 'Brian, that's for you buddy.' I told him, 'Your dad's crying.' He said, 'no way, that guy just doesn't cry.' I said, Brian, he's crying.' He had great family support."

His parents brought him up just like any other kid his sister said.

"My parents were there for him," Clark said. "He never used his handicap. He didn't need your help. He would do everything on his own. He didn't present himself as being blind."

Three days after the induction ceremony, Brian succumbed to cancer, but it certainly didn't take his spirit. And to honor it Salem wrestling coach Derek Beck and Salem High School have organized the first annual Brian Davidson Memorial Tournament set for 10 a.m. Friday.

"It would mean everything to him," Clark said of the tournament.

"Wrestling was his passion. He was very dedicated. He would sit at the dinner table on Christmas or Thanksgiving and not eat a thing because you had to hold that weight. He would do anything to make it happen."

And when he wrestled the crowds roared. People packed gyms wherever he went and often came from miles to see him compete.

Brian began his wrestling career while attending the Ohio State School for the Blind in Columbus in 1971. He took second place in the country in the Association of Blind and Partially Sighter Wrestlers. In 1978-79 he went 27-0. He wrestled in 14 state tournaments where he competed against other high schools as well as other blind schools. He won the sectional title his junior and and finished 16th in the state as a Quaker senior.

"Everybody liked him everywhere he went," Plegge said. "He was a heck of a kid. Just to talk to him, he was like an adult when he was in high school. He got standing ovations every time he stepped on the mat. They were out in force when he was wrestling. They had to see this kid."

Off the mat, Brian was just as special. He was as devoted to his family and friends as they were to him.

"He was the best brother you could have," Clark said. "There was nothing he wouldn't do with us. Everything about him was good."

Plegge said his demeanor and attitude set him apart even more than his astonishing abilities of succeeding in everything despite his handicap.

"He took whatever happened to him, win or lose, with a grain of salt," he said.

"He would've been astounded if he could've seen a tournament in his name. He was so humble. He'd ask, 'Is that for me? Why me?' That's the type of kid that he was."

Beck said the tournament has been a dream of his ever since he began as an assistant coach at Salem junior high 10 years ago.

"Brian was an extraordinary human being," Beck said.

"I only met him once, a few days before he died. His legacy needs to live on, and hopefully this tournament will help do that for generations to come."

With the lasting impression Brian left in his lifetime, it's a sure bet he won't soon be forgotten.

"I loved him," Plegge said. "I miss him."

So many do, and for good reason.

"He just had the best spirit in the whole world," Clark added.

E-mail B.J. Lisko at



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