dad fighting melanoma
By Brian Dzenis
David-Brian Whisler’s first Big Ten victory was special not because of what he did, but who was there to witness it.
The former Howland wrestler and current redshirt freshman at Maryland waited a year for the moment when some surprise guests showed up.
Whisler’s entire family, including his father Dave, made the trip from Warren to College Park, Md. He was surprised to see his dad as he’s currently battling melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
Whisler defeated Rutgers’ Matthew Correnti on Dec. 11 for his first conference victory, one of three wins he picked up that weekend.
“Apparently my dad told my mom Thursday night that he wanted to come see me wrestle for the weekend and my mom made it happen with hotels and everything,” Whisler said. “Obviously I’m happy I won all three of my matches that weekend, but if I lost, he would be just as proud of me.”
Dave Whisler was initially diagnosed with melanoma in 2011. He was eventually deemed cancer-free, only to see the melanoma return last summer.
“Right after my dad was diagnosed in the hospital, the first thing he said to my mom was. ‘Tell David-Brian not to come home, we worked too hard and put too much time into this,’ ” Whisler said. “He obviously knew I would want to come home and be there with my mom, sister and him and he shut that down. I know if I ever thought of even coming home, he’d kill me.”
David-Brian, who goes by D.B., said he and his father had set goals for his wrestling career that stretch back to his childhood. He’s already met the first set of goals, winning the Division II 170-pound state title in 2015 and earning a wrestling scholarship at a Big Ten school.
“I know there’s crazy sports dads, the crazy yelling dad and the dad who wants to live through his kids. He was never like that,” Whisler said. “For him, it was just having as much fun as you can while working hard.”
Up next is trying to earn All-American status and win a national title. On that front, the now 190-pounder is 13-8 on the season and tied for the team lead in major decisions with four. Whisler had to redshirt last year due to a neck injury, but still compiled an 8-3 record.
Redshirting is a bit different in wrestling from other college sports in that athletes can still compete with the caveat that they’re considered unattached. Unattached wrestlers can only compete in open tournaments and must pay for their own tournament fees and travel.
“It’s not much, all the redshirted guys on the team carpool together and share a hotel, so it wasn’t too expensive,” Whisler said. “You still practice with the team and everything, you just compete a little differently.”
The elder Whisler, also a former Howland wrestler, is popular with the Terps program when he’s able to get to matches.
“When he comes to our matches, all 30 guys on the team will come up to my dad and shake his hand and give him a hug and he loves that. He loves the sport,” Whisler said.
When a “go fund me” page was set up in Dave Whisler’s name to help pay for medical expenses and trips to the Cleveland Clinic, D.B. learned just how loved his father was. The fundraising goal is $15,000 and as of press time, $9,495 has been raised.
“It’s hard to put in words how lucky and blessed we are to have the people we do in our lives. That’s what’s been getting my dad and my family through this,” Whisler said. “There’s donations from kids all around the state that we grew up with wrestling, parents we know — it’s insane. I check it all the time.
“There were college kids giving money and I know first-hand we don’t have a lot of money,” Whisler said.
As for himself, D.B. said he looks to give back to the Howland program he won a state title for by returning to help out its younger wrestlers just as older Tigers wrestlers have done for him. Those friendships and relationships he’s forged have become important in light of his father’s illness.
“I just want to thank everyone that has shown my family love and support because they’re making this stuff with my dad so much better,” Whisler said. “It’s cool how everyone has come together for my family.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the Whisler family may do so at www.gofundme.com/DaveWhisler.