It’s cold, February cold. The kind of cold that turns snow to rock. The kind of cold that makes you never want to get out of bed. It’s 5:30 in the morning and Mechancisburg wrestler Brayden Wills is already awake. He has a lot of work to do and a state championship to win.
“It’s just like instead of waking up in the morning and going downstairs and seeing my mom I have to do everything I need do just alone in my room,” Brayden says. “Then right before I go to school I just walk into my mom’s room just to say hi to her.”
“It’s different,” Brayden’s mother Holly Humes says. “It’s not what you’re typically used to saying when you’re going home.”
Brayden and his family are currently living at a hotel. Right now it’s just part of the routine.
“It’s not really a complicated day,” Brayden says. “It’s just straightforward every day especially during wrestling season.”
Everyday Brayden wakes up at this freezing winter hour to work out. After school he goes to practice, wakes up and does it again. His goal is to be a state champion. It’s all routine now because one day it wasn’t.
“I was home with the two little ones,” Holly remembers. “It was about 4:00 or 4:30 in the afternoon. We were at the kitchen table, they were having a snack, we were talking about the day.”
That’s when they smelled the smoke. A fire had started in the garage. They would later find out it was electrical, essentially a freak accident. It was an accident that could have been a tragedy.
“I opened the main door into the garage and luckily there was a storm door there…it was closed which prevented any flame and smoke to get in the house at that point, but I saw the garage was filled with black smoke and flame. So I immediately got the dogs out of the house, got the kids out of the house and called 911.”
Meanwhile Brayden was at practice, soon after he was at the house. That’s when it all started to set in. It was November 29th. Just days after Thanksgiving and they weren’t going to have a home for Christmas.
“I have a little brother and sister so my biggest concern was that they won’t be in a house for Christmas or Santa won’t come for Christmas,” Brayden says.
“It was more not about the things,” Holly says. “But the meaning behind each gift for the people I had purchased for the people I love… so that was tough.”
Of course Holly knew things could be replaced. People can’t. That was a lesson her family knew as well as anyone.
“It was shortly before the fire that I had my last treatment.”
Holly had just finished her cancer treatments. She was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in September.
“The first thing she told me was that there was a chance of it being cancer,” Brayden remembers. “I kind of pushed it off to the side not really worrying about it as much hoping that it wasn’t. And then when she found out…. it was kind of a shock. But my mom is strong and I knew she could get through it.”
“He handled it very well. Very well,” Holly says. “I think he is a positive thinker because I’m the same way. It’s like it’s not a big deal. It’s something we’re going to go through right now and it’ll be fine and I think he felt the same way.”
You beat cancer then your house goes up in flames. Brayden isn’t the only hero in this story. Clearly there are two.
“It’s your choice how you look at things like that and I think that’s the only way to look at it,” Holly says. “You go head first into it and plow through and then be done with it. ”
Now this family has two goals left. The house and the state medal. The house is scheduled to be completed in May. Brayden just won the district 3 title at 152. Individual states start March 9th. After everything they’ve been though maybe just maybe they’ll get both.
“It’d be nice to put a medal from states into my room as one of my first tournaments on the wall,” Brayden says. “Not really sure how to compare those but I’d say they are pretty even.”
“He’s had a great season he’s had a great career,” Holly says. “He really has and this year has been very good.”