Every Picture Tells a StoryApr 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Steve McCloskey
While it is true that some pictures are worth a thousand words, sometimes you really need the backstory to truly appreciate how powerful a photo can be.
On Saturday, February 18, 2023, Mason Woodward was concluding the most difficult and challenging week of his young life. One week earlier his mother, Christine Hill Woodward, a well-respected and beloved elementary school teacher in Troy, was killed in a terrible car accident. It was about as bad a story as you can get and it affected everyone who read or heard about it.
Christine was the loving mother of three children, all of whom are still in school. Mason, a senior at Troy High School and the oldest of the siblings, is a well-regarded stand out on the Trojan football and wrestling teams. His athletic background made him well-versed in the highs and lows of victory and defeat, but nothing in life can prepare you for the shock and despair of the sudden and unexpected loss of your mother.
Four days after the accident, Mason, Evan, and Raelyn, along with their father, Bob, attended a locker dedication ceremony to honor Christine’s memory—this prior to the women’s basketball game at Mansfield University.
Mason’s mother and father met at Mansfield where they were, respectively, starters on the women’s basketball and football teams. Both were excellent athletes, but perhaps even more respected for their commitment to their fellow teammates.
Two days after the locker dedication, a Celebration of Life was held at a filled Victory Church with long lines of mourners to be greeted. It was a sad, exhausting day for all.
Less than twenty-four hours later, Mason was scheduled to participate in yet another gathering, this time representing his school at the PIAA Class AA North Section Championship being held at Athens High School. Mason had won a sectional title as a junior the year before and certainly had high expectations to repeat that honor—prior to his mother’s death. If he didn’t wrestle and place in the top four of his weight class, he couldn’t advance to districts, the second step of the state tournament.
The gymnasium was packed, and the story that resonated throughout the crowd wasn’t who would win or lose, but of the remarkable courage and fortitude of this wrestler from Troy. Mason Woodward had become everyone’s favorite.
The crowd was enthusiastically in support as Mason won his first match. If he was able to win his next semifinal bout, he would advance into the championship round guaranteeing him a spot in districts.
But as the match progressed, he fell behind, and as time wore down defeat seemed imminent. Then something remarkable happened in the final period—many who witnessed it could hardly explain it. Somehow, Mason reversed and pinned his opponent to win the match. The place erupted, bringing grown men and women to tears. A group hug for thousands. Divine intervention, perhaps, from his mother, who may be gone but never left her son’s side.
With nothing left to prove and exhausted beyond any time in his life, Mason forfeited the championship bout to his opponent from Canton. When the decision was announced, his opponent took Mason’s hand and raised it to the crowd in respect of a true champion.