Prep Wrestler Dies of Heat Stroke While Running Outside

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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bezanger

A Kansas prep wrestler who was slated to compete for North Dakota State University died this weekend of heat stroke while running in a sweat-suit on a particularly hot day. 

Dodge City wrestler Damian Mendez, who recently graduated, died on Saturday when his body reached an internal temperature of 107 degrees. 

Damian's parents and wrestling coach told the local NBC affiliate that they never recommended Damian wear a sweat suit for training purposes. 

“God wanted him with Him—no matter what, it was his time, and God needed him,” Lizette Garcia, Damian’s mother, said.

A prolific athlete, Damian competed in football, soccer and track, and made regionals in cross country. He was also a three-time state wrestling champion, with titles his freshman season in 2019, finishing second his sophomore year in 2020, and then capping off two unbeaten seasons as a junior and senior in 2021 and 2022.

“I’ve never been around anyone who worked as hard or wanted it as much as he did,” Dodge City wrestling coach Tate Lowe said. “Probably goes down as one of the most dominant wrestlers in Kansas ever not giving up a single offensive point, you know, the last two years of his high school career.” 

Lowe said Damian's death has been felt across Kansas. 

“The influence he had on how many coaches and, and just wrestlers from all over the state have been texting and sending their love and, and, Damian was everyone’s—he loved the wrestling community, and it’s nice to know that other people loved him as well,” Lowe added.

The CDC says a heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death if the person does not receive emergency treatment.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness (coma)
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature
  • Fatal if treatment delayed

Take the following steps to treat a person with heat stroke:

  • Call 911 for emergency medical care.
  • Stay with the worker until emergency medical services arrive.
  • Move the worker to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing.
  • Cool the worker quickly, using the following methods:
  • With a cold water or ice bath, if possible
  • Wet the skin
  • Place cold wet cloths on the skin
  • Soak clothing with cool water
  • Circulate the air around the worker to speed cooling.
  • Place cold wet cloths or ice on the head, neck, armpits, and groin; or soak the clothing with cool water.
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