An ‘inspiration to everyone’
After being born with a birth defect, Baldwin High School senior Andreas Brandenberger has learned to adapt to any situation.
Brandenberger was born with phocomelia, a birth defect that caused undeveloped arms and two digits on each hand.
"From a young age, I always knew I was going to have to figure things out on my own," Brandenberger said. "I could go get help, but that wouldn't help. I just figured how could I do it best. I had a lot of support from my family and friends."
Christine, Brandenberger's mother, said Andreas has always had a positive mentality about doing something.
"He was an overcomer since he took his first swimming lesson at age three," Christine said. "He's had that 'can do' attitude since day one."
Part of that 'can do' attitude came out when Andreas was learning to ride a bike. His parents, William and Christine, were trying to figure out how to adjust the handle bars, when they noticed Andreas riding the bike outside all by himself.
Brandenberger said learning some things was difficult for him at first, but he would always figure out a way to get around that.
"At first, some things might be hard to do, but if I figure out how to do it, I can usually work around it," Brandenberger said.
Christine said that people try to think of ways to help her son, but just aren't fast enough.
"The general public, including his parents, are too slow for Andreas," Christine said. "He is just a step ahead of everyone."
Brandenberger was always active in games and activities during elementary school. He said his friends never make an exception for him, because they knew he would find a way to do it.
Brandenberger said his family and friends have always helped him through his life.
Active in sports
Athletics has always been a part of Brandenberger's life, especially soccer. He started playing soccer when he was in elementary school and is still playing it today.
"Soccer is by far my favorite sport ever," he said. "I've enjoyed wrestling a lot. I seem to have a natural way about soccer. It was a fun thing to do. It's fun."
Brandenberger also participated in sports every year at BHS. He just finished his final season at BHS as his wrestling season came to an end at the state meet.
"It was awesome," Brandenberger said of the state meet. "It was probably one of the coolest things ever. Going to state and getting to be a part of the whole parade experience was pretty remarkable."
Brandenberger finished his season with a 23-13 record in the 140-pound weight class.
Brandenberger attended a wrestling technique camp in eighth grade. The next year he went out for wrestling and continued to every year at BHS. Brandenberger said when he started wrestling, it was a little hard at first.
"Things weren't awkward, just different," Brandenberger said.
One way Brandenberger has been so successful in his wrestling career is by using his infamous scissors hold.
"For the body scissors, he tries to scissors his legs around their midsection and squeezes, causing some discomfort for his opponent," said BHS wrestling coach Kit Harris. "He then tries to use this leverage to put their shoulders on the mat for the pin. I would say most of his pins came from this hold. Over the years, he added more moves and became a more rounded wrestler, but he still relied a lot on the scissors every year."
Brandenberger also said his disability sometimes makes other wrestlers scared to wrestle him.
"It gives me an advantage," Brandenberger said. "People wouldn't know what to do, so they would wrestle me timid. They would hold back and I would take advantage."
On March 8, Brandenberger was named runner-up for the annual Jeffery Wicina Wrestling Scholarship Award, given at the annual "Metro Classic" all-star dual between Kansas and Missouri. The award is given to a wrestler who overcame a challenge to find success.
"It's a pretty cool experience just to go and be honored to have your name mentioned among those pretty outstanding people, who overcome a lot of things," Brandenberger said.
Brandenberger was also named the outstanding wrestler at the Washburn Rural High School Tournament. He has also received the Purple Heart award at BHS, along with other awards.
Other sports that Brandenberger has participated in at BHS include football, two years, and cross country, one year. He also played basketball at Baldwin Junior High School.
One thing everyone compliments Brandenberger on is his work ethic. People also talk about how he never lets anything prove to be too difficult for him.
"Andreas is a very hard worker," Harris said. "He never makes excuses or blames a loss on his disability. He has an attitude of finding a way to be successful regardless. He has an amazingly positive life philosophy. He has been a great team leader."
BHS football coach Mike Berg agreed about Brandenberger's attitude.
"Andreas is an inspiration to everyone," Berg said. "His work ethic and determination is second to none. Andreas played every down in football full speed. He never missed any practices and always strived to be the best he could be. I think he motivated others by how he dedicated himself to be the best. He would also push others into working harder."
Berg said Brandenberger always tried to do what he could to get better at football.
"As soon as he made the decision to play football he never missed a weight room workout," Berg said. "He came to all of the 7-on-7 games this past summer and asked questions on what he could do to get better."
Harris said Brandenberger was the same way in wrestling.
"I have really enjoyed coaching Andreas the last four years," Harris said. "He always, on his own creativity, found a way to adapt to what we were teaching and make it work for him. He never sat out because a drill didn't apply to him, he instead found a way to do it. We will greatly miss him."
Harris also said Brandenberger's way of looking at life is something every person should model.
"I think Andreas has a lot of natural athleticism, which helps him," Harris said. "But his biggest asset is his positive, find-a-way attitude. He is very coachable, he listens and learns. Just about every skill in wrestling involves in some way the use of hands, yet Andreas was able to be successful regardless of that. I think that is truly amazing. And add to that he didn't even begin wrestling until he was a freshman. He is a special young man. We can all learn a lot from his approach to life."
Brandenberger will graduate from BHS in May. He said he has enjoyed his time at the school, especially the people he has met.
"There are good people here," Brandenberger said. "I like the surroundings. The school is nice. It has some good things and some bad things like any other school would. For the most part it's pretty good."
Despite enjoying the school, Brandenberger said he is ready to take the next step in his education.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the next level, whatever it is."
Brandenberger said he is considering attending the University of Kansas in the fall, but he is not sure yet. He said if he does go to KU, he hopes to play club soccer.