Hundreds of the best wrestlers in Iowa will battle for state championships this week at the state tournament. Becoming a champion is every wrestler's dream, and for most it starts at a young age.
For a young Iowa boy and his family, the sport is about more than winning championships.
The sounds of Sebastiano Fidone preparing for battle fills the air of the basement inside his family's home on the outskirts of Council Bluffs. It's the heart of wrestling season. A sport this six-year-old has taken to naturally.
"I'm impressed," says Sebastiano's father, Mark Fidone. "There's times he's out there practicing and he'll take a shot and I'll think that is just a fast shot."
Proof, as they say, is in the hardware. And with a closet full of medals and trophies, it's hard to keep track of them all.
Yanno, as his parents call him, knows one speed: 100 percent.
Yanno's consistent drive is why wrestling seemed to be the perfect sport for the boy who rarely sits still. That is until a couple years ago, when Yanno's body started getting in the way.
"He was riding bikes early, playing on swingsets, just always outside being active," Mellisa Fidone, Yanno's mother, says. "It got to the point where his legs were affecting that and his leg hurt so bad he couldn't go outside and run. And if he did he paid the price for that, where he'd be in his bed crying all night long and screaming."
Yanno's dad did what you probably shouldn't do: go on the internet. Eventually, one of his searches pointed to cancer as a possible cause for the leg pain.
After several blood tests and a bone scan, Yanno was diagnosed with leukemia.
As part of his treatment, Yanno received chemotherapy through a port that connects directly to his heart. About three weeks later, an unexpected side effect from the chemo drug caused a massive stroke.
"He wasn't responsive so we rushed him to the emergency room and found out he had a blood clot in the brain," Yanno's mom says.
Yanno's father describes those moments as the worst day of his life.
"I was holding his hand when he started to go into convulsions. I told the nurse his hand was shaking, twitching and she said it was normal and I said 'No, no' and then he went full seizure and stopping breathing and you just never know ... I just put my head down and cried."
But just as he had bounced back from his initial diagnosis, Yanno opened his eyes and was able to make a full recovery. All the while, using wrestling as a way to focus on staying strong.
"[Wrestling] gives him normalcy," Melissa Fidone says. "It's something he does well so it's not 'there's the boy with leukemia', it's 'there's the wrestling who does well at tournaments.'"
In between the tournaments and school, Yanno still receives treatment, some days better than others.
There will come a day when Yanno's port is removed and the shoulder wrap he wears to protect it is a distant memory. But the impact he's having on those who hear his story will survive long after the cancer is gone.
Yanno will complete his last treatment next February. In the meantime, his family is raising money for St. Jude Cancer Research with a goal of $10,000 by March 31.
You can donate in Yanno's name through his Pin Cancer page.
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