NEW CASTLE —
Imagine feeling excruciating pain when you wake up each morning.
Same thing when you try to walk down the stairs to start your day — or even attempt a simple task such as gripping a pencil.
Welcome to the world of New Castle native Kyler Rosta.
“During the winter, the pain is a 9 out of 10,” said Rosta, who lives in Florence, Ariz., with his mother, Abbie Brown, her fiancé, Everett Liburd, and his teenage sisters Paige and Hayden Rosta. His father, Paul, and older brother Dalton live in Slippery Rock Township. “On a day-to-day basis, the pain is a 7 out of 10. There are times I can’t walk, because my knees are throbbing. Sometimes, I can’t open things, because my hands hurt. There are days when I can’t get out of bed.”
Kyler’s affliction caused him to give up the sport he loved — wrestling. But rather than give up on athletics all together, the 17-year-old simply took his will to succeed in another direction.
Kyler’s parents noticed that their second-born was having difficulties walking down the stairs each morning. He ultimately would have to drag himself down the steps in order to get to the first floor.
Kyler also had difficulties gripping a pencil or crayons, because his fingers were so swollen.
“It was debilitating to him, because he was in so much pain coming down the stairs,” Brown said. “He had to stay busy. If he didn’t, his joints would lock up on him.”
Yet, Kyler just went about his business each day.
“He would complain about pain once in a while but nothing major,” Paul said. “He’s a very tough kid.”
Kyler’s parents eventually sought out medical advice as his pain continued over the coming weeks and months.
“At first, they told us it was growing pains,” Brown said. “Then, they told us it was rheumatoid arthritis.”
But, it wasn’t until the family mentioned their son had some elasticity to his skin that the doctors came to the conclusion Kyler had Type 3 Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
“They couldn’t diagnose it with blood tests,” Brown said. “They had to do a skin graft from his back. He was so tolerant of all the testing. He’s a tough kid.”
Type 3 Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome causes joint instability and chronic muscle pain. People with the disease experience frequent dislocations with or without force.
“The shock value was tremendous,” said Brown, noting her son can sit Indian-style with his arms crossed and have his hips and shoulders become dislocated. “I’d never heard of it before. You cry for a while and wonder what you’re going to do, but the more you read about it on websites, you realize there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you can live through it. He’s just going to have a harder road. He has to work out a little harder and make sure there’s no play in his joints. He has to stay on top of it. He won’t let it beat him. That’s for sure.”
“I actually found out about the diagnosis when I was deployed in Iraq,” Paul said. “You never want to hear that your child has a cold, because there’s the ultimate concern about your kids. Fortunately, it’s not life-threatening.”
There is no cure for EDS and there is no effective treatment strategies.
“Just anti-inflammatories and pain medication,” Brown noted. “Surgery isn’t an option until he’s older. At that point, they’ll replace his knees, hips or whatever is needed. He could eventually end up in a wheelchair. They just don’t know.”
Brown and Paul Rosta divorced and Brown eventually moved her children — sons Dalton and Kyler as well as daughters Paige and Hayden — to Florence to better combat the consistent pain her son was feeling.
Dalton has since moved back to Pennsylvania to live with his father and is a standout football player and wrestler at Laurel High.
“The drier climate would be beneficial to Kyler rather than be here with the extreme cold like we get some days,” Paul said. “I know with the moisture and the dampness you do start to feel it when it hits a certain temperature.”
KYLER THE ATHLETE
Kyler showcased an unnatural athletic ability from Day 1, winning a Pennsylvania state wrestling title before turning 10.
“From the time he was born, Kyler was real athletic and real flexible,” his dad said. “We knew he was something special. He’d do crazy stuff like jump off the couch, land on his butt and laugh. That’s something that would hurt any other kid.”
Kyler had a pretty successful first wrestling season, winning a handful of tournaments before capturing a Pennsylvania Junior Olympic championship in the freestyle as an 8-year-old in his second year of wrestling. He also finished in the Top 20 in a national tournament in Columbus, Ohio, that year.
“We started him in wrestling at a young age,” Paul said. “He’s always had that athletic ability and the flexibility was always there. That first season, he won some tournaments and was doing really well. There were over 100 kids in his bracket at that tournament in Columbus, so he did really well.”
Kyler continued to wrestle after moving to Arizona and eventually earned a place in the national youth wrestling rankings.
“He was a fantastic wrestler,” Brown said. “At 7 years old, he was very dedicated. He was doing push-ups and whatever else he could do to get better.
“Everything he’s tried, he’s been pretty good at. He’s an exceptional athlete. I have some athletic kids and he’s probably my best athlete. He’s literally that good.”
Kyler turned his illness into an advantage on the wrestling mats.
“It was like I had an advantage in wrestling,” he said. “I was very flexible and was double-jointed. If I was in a bad position, I could slip out of it without injuring myself. At the time, it didn’t hurt me, but as I got older, it started to hurt doing stuff like that.”
A NEW LOVE
Kyler continued to wrestle into high school, but sustained a broken elbow, wrist and forearm during his freshman and sophomore years at Florence High.
The doctors advised the Rosta family to have Kyler quit wrestling.
“It was hard to give up my past,” he said. “I had trained hard. It was a hard decision. I tried to wrestle in high school and it was worse, because I couldn’t do as much as I could when I was younger.”
The decision to give up wrestling sent the teenager into a tailspin.
“He thought sports were down the tubes for him once wrestling was done,” Brown said. “He was depressed. Then swimming came along. The change was unbelievable.”
Kyler, though, views wrestling’s loss as his own personal gain.
“It was a loss-win for me,” he said. “Out here in Arizona, wrestling and swimming are at the same time, so I couldn’t do both. If It wasn’t for me having this disease and having to quit wrestling, I wouldn’t have gotten into swimming and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.”
With wrestling no longer an option, Kyler turned to swimming as a therapeutic exercise rather than a sport.
“Swimming relieves my joints,” he said.
It didn’t take long until Kyler caught the eye of then-Florence High swimming coach Chris Lineberry, who asked for Brown’s blessing to allow her son to swim for the school.
“My coach saw potential in me,” Kyler said. “I was only going to dive. My times were pretty fast my first year. I’m not trying to brag, but by my second race, I had already beaten the times of people that had been swimming for years. That’s when my coach saw my potential and started to train me.”
Both parents are surprised at how well their son has done in the pool.
“I was thinking he’d be mediocre at swimming, because he’d never done it before,” Brown said. “He smoked everyone in that first race. I was in awe.”
“It’s kind of surprising,” Paul said. “He didn’t start at 6 or 7 years old like a lot of kids do. He started a couple years ago and it was something that he fell in love with. He has the ability and the talent. He’s set a couple records.”
As good as he was initially, Kyler’s abilities in the pool still needed some fine-tuning. He had no clue how to do a proper flip-turn nor did he have proper technique diving into the water to start a race.
“Kyler watches videos on swimming almost every night,” Brown said. “He’s taught himself how to do flip-turns. He’s transferred his dedication to wrestling over to swimming. I’ve never seen the level of discipline he has with swimming.”
Paul has been impressed with his son’s drive in the pool.
“He was the same way with wrestling, but swimming is what he wants to do now,” the elder Rosta said. “He’s very adamant about it. He’s very dedicated beyond belief. If he loses, he gets frustrated. He’s putting in 110 percent effort to get better.”
THE STATE RACE
Kyler competed in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s state swimming championships two weeks ago at the Skyline High School Aquatic Center in Mesa.
He finished 18th in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.49 and 21st in the 100-yard freestyle in 1:01.89. Kyler’s regular-season time of 20.64 in the 50-yard freestyle was the among top times recorded in Arizona prior to the state meet.
He joined forces with senior classmates Jeremy Correa, Matthew Kuebler and Trevor Scott to place 17th in the 200-yard medley relay in 1:52.33 and 23rd in the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:41.01.
“Swimming is all about improving your times like in track,” Kyler said. “It’s really not about the place I’m in. I’m out there trying to improve my times. I’m thankful about being in the top 10 in the state, but I just want to improve my times.”
He dedicated his performance over the two-day state swim meet to his grandfather, Wallace Brown, who died in a car accident on Sept. 23.
“I grew up around my grandpa,” Kyler said. “He used to take us out riding dirt bikes as a kids. He was a big part of my life. I stayed in contact with him after we left Pennsylvania. For him to be gone just like that was very difficult. I was supposed to call him about states, but never got to before I got the news (that Brown had died). That’s why I wanted to dedicate the race to him.”
With no known cure or real treatment outside some medication, Kyler has to deal with the hurt he endures every day.
“I try to not think about the pain,” he said. “When I wake up, my joints hurt and they hurt the entire school day, but when I get in the pool after school, I feel relief. When I’m swimming, it’s not as painful as any other sport on dry land.”
Kyler’s refusal to sulk and become enveloped in negativity has impressed his father.
“He’s a very hard-nosed kid,” Paul said. “A lot of kids would probably be like ‘I’m not going to do this or I’m not going to do that,’ but he doesn’t.
“That’s a nice attitude to have. You always want to stay positive and stay focused on the task at hand. You want to strive to do better and deal with the situation the best you can.”
Brown is amazed by her son’s ability to fight through the painful disease without doing much complaining.
“He’s pretty resilient,” she said. “He never complains. It didn’t phase him when he was younger and it still doesn’t. He works through the pain. Plenty of people would give up, but he just battles on and on and on. He’s good about doing what he needs to do to get through it.”
It appears as though Kyler’s talents in the swimming pool are going to give him a leg up in life.
Division I institutions like Notre Dame, Texas, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Georgia Tech have offered Kyler scholarship money to swim in college.
Other schools like Gardner Webb, Cal State and Delta State also have expressed an interest.
“He has quite a few schools looking at him,” Brown said. “He’s broken three school records. His times are all college-level times.”
The collegiate interest has sparked an improvement in the classroom, his dad said.
“He always got decent grades, but he wasn’t putting forth extra effort in school,” Paul said. “With the colleges showing interest in him, he’s trying to get straight As now. These bigger schools want to see the grade -point average rise and they want to see good SAT scores.”
Kyler hasn’t narrowed down his collegiate choices just yet, but he wants to major in the computer science or technical engineering fields.
“I’m leaning more towards a school that has what I want to major in,” he said. “I’d definitely like to build the next phone or the next computer. That’s where the future is. I want to get a good job.”
(Email: C_Corbin @ncnewsonline.com).
NEW CASTLE —
Imagine feeling excruciating pain when you wake up each morning.
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