True Survivor

Sophomore wrestler gets back on her feet after devastating accident


Andrea Escobedo

Photo taken during the 2018-2019 season

Shelby Hansen

A talented wrestler her freshman year, sophomore Chelsea Shinpaugh won many awards for wrestling, a sport she had never done before, and she became District Champion. However, this changed when she got into an accident that changed her life forever. Sometimes life can come at you in unexpected ways, and unfortunately for Shinpaugh, this was one of them. Recovering would be a long and hard road filled with obstacles, but the want and need to push through is prominent. 

On July 4, Shinpaugh crashed her ATV in the country, causing multiple injuries in her body, such as roadburn, a gash to her leg and the back of her left calf and nerve damage that does not allow her to move her ankle and toes. She is still in recovery with a boot and braces on her legs and crutches to support her. 

“They said it could take me around two years to fully recover,” Shinpaugh said. “I had eight surgeries and a skin graft. I’m probably not gonna be able to wrestle because I can’t even walk or move my ankle. My coach keeps saying I’ll get back into it, but I don’t know. I planned on wrestling all through high school and college, so it ruined my plan.”

Shinpaugh was driving the ATV on an old country backroad with her cousin when she hit a bump and the vehicle’s steering wheel stopped working, and she flipped down a hill in an attempt to avoid hitting a nearby tree. Her cousin was thrown out of the vehicle, yet Shinpaugh stayed through the tumbling of the vehicle. She was rushed to the hospital with a large gash on her leg. After being released the first time, she was rushed to another hospital with an infection that could possibly make her lose her leg at the hip. After arriving, she was in Cook Children’s for a month. 

“The first hospital only kept me there for four hours, and they messed up,” Shinpaugh said. “They didn’t clean out my leg good, they didn’t connect my hamstring because it was cut in half and they left a whole leaf and grass in it. They stitched it up and just sent me home without any medicine to take. Within 24 hours, my whole leg turned black, and I went back to the ER and found out I got a flesh-eating infection.”

Last year, Shinpaugh was a talented wrestler. Though she had never wrestled before, she immediately began winning matches because of her dedication and athleticism. She was the only girl to win a match at her first-ever wrestling meet and ended up placing at every tournament. By the end of the season, she was the district champion as only a freshman, and she beat out a senior for the last spot on the team. 

“She brought a realization to the team because a lot of the girls there were new,” wrestling coach Courtney Livingston said. “Seeing someone that was new and could do these things brought a lot more girls in. She definitely boosted morale some. This year, I was hoping she could make it to state, before the accident. Now, I just want her to be able to wrestle again or be able to live the life she wants to live.”

Shinpaugh goes to the trainer daily and her physical therapist comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She is still the team manager of the girls wrestling team and goes to every practice, staying involved in the program. The accident will always be a part of her, and she will have the scars to show what she’s been through.

“I feel like this is gonna be a big part of my life,” Shinpaugh said. “Eventually, I won’t have a leg brace anymore, just the ankle one, and I’ll use a forearm crutch. I’m definitely gonna learn from this. It was hard, and it’s gonna get harder.”