Chandler Dean had every reason to give up on his dreams, but he chose to fight for them instead.
Dean, the son of Shay and Eddie Dean of Bryon, said he knew he’d found his passion when he started wrestling in the sixth grade. It’s his dream to win a national championship title in college.
A series of hardships during his high school career threatened to derail him from his goal.
His family’s home burned down in July 2012, he lost his grandfather to bone cancer on Christmas Eve that year, and his father was diagnosed with liver cancer the follow summer. His dad received a liver transplant in April 2014 and has now been cancer free for three years, Dean said.
Dean sustained a severe concussion during a wrestling match in December 2014, and a car wreck in November 2015 left him with two amputated fingertips and another concussion.
“I thought that was the end for me. (God) kept throwing obstacles at my family, but I was determined to stay strong and push through it and know that there is always good through it,” Dean said. “I’ve never let things stop me or get in the way of my dreams.”
After he recovered from his accidents, Dean got back to wrestling, practiced hard and won big. He’s a three-time regional champion, the 2015 state champion and a two-time state finalist. He went undefeated this year until the final state championship match, when he competed despite a sprained Achilles tendon.
“I’m just blessed to see graduation. After my wreck, all the doctors were saying was you’re not supposed to be here. It’s going to be a really proud moment for me when I get my diploma,” Dean said.
At Life University this fall, he will study health coaching and join the wrestling team. He plans to also get his master’s degree and one day become a wrestling coach and perhaps even open his own wrestling gym.
“My prayer is that he just continues to be the hard worker that he is,” said Kay Grier, a Westfield counselor. “I think he’ll be an influence for young people one day. He’s a student that you remember. He’s always positive.”
Area high school commencements
Baldwin County High School: 9 a.m. May 27 at the Centennial Center on Georgia College’s campus
Central High School: 3 p.m. May 27 at Macon Coliseum
First Presbyterian Day School: noon Saturday at Ingleside Baptist Church
Howard High School: 8 p.m. May 26 at Macon Coliseum
Northeast High School: noon May 27 at Macon Coliseum
Rutland High School: 9 a.m. May 27 at Macon Coliseum
Southwest High School: 6 p.m. May 27 at Macon Coliseum
Stratford Academy: 5 p.m. May 27 at Macon City Auditorium
Tattnall Square Academy: 7 p.m. May 22 at Ingleside Baptist Church
Westside High School: 5 p.m. May 26 at Macon Coliseum
Windsor Academy: 7 p.m. Friday at Mable White Baptist Church
Bleckley County High School: 9 a.m. May 27 at Royal Stadium in Cochran
Houston County High School: 8 p.m. May 26 at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry
Northside High School: 9 a.m. May 27 at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry
Perry High School: 5 p.m. May 26 at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry
Veterans High School: 3 p.m. May 27 at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry
Warner Robins High School: noon May 27 at the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building, the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry
The Westfield School: 6 p.m. Friday at the school’s Gymnatorium
Jones County High School: 6 p.m. May 25 at the Georgia College Centennial Center
Mary Persons High School: 8 p.m. May 26 at Dan Pitts Stadium at Mitchell Field
Peach County High School: 8 p.m. Friday at Anderson Stadium in Fort Valley
Twiggs County High School: 7 p.m. May 26 in the school gymnasium