Upper Iowa's Williams overcomes heavy odds - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Upper Iowa's Williams overcomes heavy odds

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FAYETTE (KWWL) -

From an early age wrestling was infused in Maleek Williams' blood.

“My uncle wrestled for the high school I went to,” Williams recalled, “My mom took me to all his matches, and I fell in love with the sport there.”

That love led to 4 Florida high school state tournament appearances, a state runner up finish his senior year, and eventually nearly 1,400 miles to the north at Upper Iowa University. A place where he hopes to make up for that loss in his final high school match.

“I've been planning on being a national champ ever since I lost in the state finals my senior year,” said Williams.

Early in the season, however, Maleek Williams goals took a detour when instead of working out on the mat he found himself in a bed in Waterloo's Allen Hospital.

That was November 10, but a week prior when brushing his teeth was when Maleek realized there was a problem.

“When I went to brush my right side, my arm was limp, and wouldn't go anywhere, and the toothpaste was running out the left side of my mouth. I thought this was different, but didn't expect anything of it.

Later in the day when a teammate noticed Maleek was slurring his speech, it was clear that he needed help.

“When they did a CAT scan, it showed I had a stroke,” he recalled, “The only time a stroke shows up on a CAT scan is when it happened at least 3 hours prior to the scan.”

Doctors found a possible cause, a hole found in a heart valve requiring surgery, which briefly had Maleek questioning his wrestling future.”

“After the stroke I asked if I'd ever wrestle again,” he said, “Nurses were telling me no. Doctors said probably not this season.”

Both predictions proved to be wrong, and 8 weeks later Maleek was back in the wrestling room training. Less than 3 weeks after that, he had his first match.

“Even though I had won the battle, being that I had a stroke and was back on the mat,” he said, “I wanted to prove to myself that I could get back to where I was.”

He did just that picking up an 8-5 win in that match, but the big shocker occurred a few weeks later when a second place finish at regionals sent him to the Division 2 NCAA meet.

“I wasn't going to leave that tournament without punching my ticket to the national tournament –“

In the end, Maleek lost both matches at the NCAA's, but still making it there just months after a stroke and going through open heart surgery has him hungry for the future.

“I have goals that are far higher than just being a national qualifier again next year.“

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