What did this college wrestler do when his teammate was attacked by a grizzly bear?
College wrestlers from Cedar City, Utah, and Evanston, Wyoming, were sent to a Montana hospital for care following the surprise attack by a grizzly bear
When a grizzly bear attacked his Northwest College wrestling teammate Brady Lowry outside Cody, Wyoming on Saturday, Kendell Cummings didn’t hesitate to try to free his friend from the bear’s clutches.
The bear had grabbed Lowry’s arm, shaking it until it fractured. Lowry curled up in a ball and but the bear continued its attack “biting my back, my butt, my shoulder,” he said.
Cummings attempted to disrupt the attack by yelling, throwing things at it and grabbing its coat to attempt to pull it off Lowry.
“I didn’t want to lose my friend. It was bad. There was big ol’ bear on top of him. I could have run and potentially lost a friend, or get him off and save him,” said Cummings, from his hospital bed in Billings, Montana.
In a flash, the bear turned on Cummings, relentlessly mauling his arms and head. For some reason, the assault stopped, but the bear returned for a second attack.
Lowry, who is from Cedar City, feared Cummings was dead. Despite his own injuries, Lowry climbed up a ridge to locate cell service to call 911 for help.
“He definitely saved my life. If it wasn’t for him, if I was by myself, I would not have made it off that mountain,” said Lowry in an interview Monday.
Two other teammates on the outing to hunt for shed antlers, August Harrison of Vernal and Orrin Jackson from Kersey, Colorado, eventually helped Cummings down the mountain, at times carrying him, although Cummings also walked part of the way.
Emergency dispatchers urged Harrison and Jackson to head to a safe place and wait for help, but the idea of leaving Cummings alone on the mountainside was out of the question. Once they had coordinated a location for a medical helicopter to land, they headed up the hill to find Cummings.
“I remember getting on the phone and I said ‘You know, that’s our brother up there. We’re not leaving,’” Jackson said as he hung up the phone with the dispatcher.
Harrison said he “started hauling butt up the mountain for Kendell and yelling his name. Eventually, after a while, I heard him yell back at me and I noticed that he was a little farther up the mountain from me. So I ran up to him and I grabbed him by the side and I helped him get down the mountain. He was just a bloody mess. His head was painted red everywhere,” he said.
Cummings wanted to sit for a second, so Harrison used the time to check the wounds to his neck and chest.
“He looked OK, like we could get him to medical attention in time. So I told him ‘we’re gonna have to get up and walk,’” Harrison said.
At first, Cummings said he didn’t want to walk “so I told him I would carry him and I throw him over my shoulder,” Harrison said.
“After a while he wanted to walk again, so I sat him down and we walked some more and then Orrin carried him for a bit. Then, we had to hand him over a barbed wire fence,” Harrison.
All told, the trip down the mountainside to the trailhead where they had parked earlier in the day was approximately 6 miles.
The group stayed together while waiting for Park County Search and Rescue. Cummings was flown to Billings Clinic Hospital where he has undergone multiple surgeries and remains hospitalized.
Asked about his teammates, Cummings said, “They’re awesome. I know that all of us would do anything for each other. It didn’t matter who was up there.”
Lowry, who made it off the mountainside largely unassisted, was transported by ambulance to Cody Regional Hospital. He was later taken by ambulance to the same Billings hospital as Cummings but was then released.
Wildlife officials described the attacks as “a sudden, surprise encounter with a grizzly bear.” Each of the wrestlers was carrying bear spray, but the attacks were so sudden, none had time to deploy them, the wrestlers said.
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Cummings and Lowry “encountered the bear at close range in heavy cover ... west of the Bobcat Houlihan trailhead on the Shoshone National Forest.”
“They were able to call 911 from near the scene and Park County Search and Rescue quickly responded,” the press release states.
“With the assistance of a hunter in the area, a local resident and other members of their party, the two men were able to reach the trailhead where they met search and rescue and were transported from the area,” according to the statement.
Dan Smith, Cody Region wildlife supervisor, said landowners and hunters in the vicinity of the attack said there may be 6 to 10 different bears moving between agricultural fields and low-elevation slopes. An investigation is ongoing.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, grizzly bears weigh upward of 700 pounds. Males are heavier than females and can weigh about 400 to 600 pounds. A large female can weigh 250 to 350 pounds in the lower-48 states, the federation’s website states.
According to the school’s website, Lowry wrestles at 149 pounds while Cummings competes at 141 pounds.
Northwest College wrestling coach Jim Zeigler said both young men experienced significant puncture wounds, cuts and bruises in the attack. Cummings has dozens of staples on wounds on his face and head.
Upon his release, Cummings will return to Evanston to recover, he said. His care team is greatly concerned about the possibility that he will develop infection in his many wounds, Cummings said.
Zeigler said the events were traumatic for all of the wrestlers on the outing but also for their teammates.
“I’m just going to continue to love them and look out for them and make sure that they recover from this emotionally,” he said.
Regular season practices just got underway, preparing for the start of the wrestling season in early November.
Zeigler said his bigger concern is to support the physical and emotional healing of his team. A gathering was conducted Monday afternoon among the wrestlers, college officials and faculty members to “give them a hug” and check on their wellbeing.
Moving forward, Zeigler said he’ll take his cues from how his team responds to their workouts and coaching.
“You know, we’ll just do it day by day ... The most important thing right now is just to love each other,” he said.
“If there’s something wrong, I can always sense that we’re extremely close. I mean, we can finish each other’s sentences and thoughts, and so I can look at them and they know what I’m thinking. We’ll be fine. We’ll move forward,” he said.
Saturday morning, after a workout, the four wrestlers told Zeigler they were planning to head to Cody to hunt for antlers. Zeigler urged them to be careful, to wear blaze orange since hunting season is underway and to carry bear spray.
They assured him, “We’re good, coach.”
“I have faith in them because I’ve been up there with them ... I’ve got to let them live,” he said, explaining he and team members camped in the Cody area a couple of weeks ago.
Later in the day Saturday, while Zeigler was home watching a football game on TV, he received a phone call informing him of the attacks. He left immediately for Billings because he wanted to be there for Lowry and Cummings, knowing it would be several hours before their families could get to Billings. He was joined by other members of the wrestling team.
“I’m proud of them, just the way they love each other, the way they protected each other, the way they stuck together. I can’t imagine the horror, the terror of it. I don’t think they realized it until after it was over how frightening it was. They just did what they did, helped each other survive and they lived to tell about it and I’m proud of them,” he said.
Lowry, who attended Canyon View High School in Cedar City, won two Utah state championships during high school.
He was the first Falcons wrestler to win a state title for the school and the first to wrestle in college, according to the Cedar City Spectrum.
“I’m really excited to continue my wrestling career in college,” Harrison said.
Harrison also won a Utah state title while competing for Uintah High School in Vernal.
Northwest College, a two-year college that serves about 900 students, is located 70 miles east of Yellowstone National Park in Powell, Wyoming.
Contributions to support the wrestlers and their families with medical and other related expenses are being accepted through the Northwest College Foundation.