Heim returns matside
Andy Hamilton ? Iowa City Press-Citizen ? July 22, 2009

Ryan Heim said he never really had a concrete plan for life after wrestling when he graduated from Dubuque Hempstead High School nine years ago.

"I wanted to go to Iowa and wrestle, be the best and get paid to wrestle," he said. "Really, I didn't have a lot of (other) aspirations. In high school, I knew I wanted to go to college and get my education and find a good-paying job. The accident was a curveball for me."

Heim is still recovering from an automobile crash eight years ago that left him in a coma for more than a month and cost him an opportunity to chase his competitive dreams in wrestling. His new goals center on a career coaching wrestling and his pursuit of Physical Therapist Assistant degree.

Heim, 28, will start taking classes next month at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City and will be a member of Steve Kelly's coaching staff. Kelly said Heim will receive a scholarship for the PTA program.

"I think he's got a great life story," Kelly said. "I asked him, 'Are you bitter?' He said, 'Well, I was given lemons and I'm going to make lemonade.' That's impressive. For someone his age, to have wrestling taken away from him and be able to still have the passion to be around it -- that's the thing I think he can give us.

"We have 18- and 19-year-old kids who are away from home, and they think they're dealing with a lot. But you've got a guy like Ryan, who dealt with a lot more. He can help them through those tough situations, and we can give him an education. I think it's a win-win situation."

Heim won two high school state titles. In his first season at Iowa, he posted a 16-5 record with seven pins while competing unattached. The following season he made the drive in January with his father and two teammates to watch the Hawkeyes wrestle at the National Duals in Columbus, Ohio.

They were less than 30 miles from home when the van Heim was driving hit a patch of ice, spun out of control on Interstate 80 near Tipton and got broadsided by a semi. Heim sustained a severe traumatic brain injury. He was fortunate. Doctors said 50 percent of people who suffer similar injuries don't survive.

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