Born with a clubbed foot, Lee's Summit North wrestler Charlie Dykes works his way to state contention

By Michael Smith
The Examiner
Lee's Summit North freshman wrestler Charlie Dykes, front, works on drills with teammate Owen Barnhill during a recent practice. Dykes, despite being born with a clubfoot on his left leg, has developed into a 113-pound district champion this season and enters Saturday's sectional tournament as a No. 1 seed.

Whether he is on a wrestling mat or roaming the halls at Lee’s Summit North High School, freshman Charlie Dykes moves a little bit differently than most of his peers.

When he’s in the circle, there is something noticeably different about him. He wears a shoe over his right foot and a sock over his left. There’s a reason for that, though.

Dykes was born with something similar to clubfoot, a condition in which the foot is twisted out of shape or position. The way Dykes describes it, his left foot is shaped like a hook. When he walks, he drags his left foot and then takes a step with his right.

While that may seem like a disadvantage while participating in a physical sport like wrestling, it hasn’t been for Dykes. Not only has he made the varsity team of one of the strongest programs in Kansas City, he’s had a successful 2020-21 season.

Lee's Summit North freshman wrestler Charlie Dykes runs through drills with his teammates during a recent practice at the high school. Dykes, despite being born with a clubfoot on his left leg, has developed into a 113-pound district champion this season and enters Saturday's sectional tournament as a No. 1 seed.

The Broncos freshman is going into the Class 4 Sectional 4 tournament Saturday at Staley High School as a No. 1 seed after he won the 113-pound title at the District 7 tournament. He won both of his matches at district decisively, one by tech fall and the other by pin.

When he wrestles, his left foot hasn’t deterred him from being aggressive in the ring.

“I just deal with it, I don’t ask a lot of questions,” Dykes said. “I missed the beginning of the season because of COVID. It feels pretty good (to be a No. 1 seed in sectionals), but it’s not over yet.”

Lee's Summit North freshman wrestler Charlie Dykes, left, works on running drills during a recent practice. Dykes, despite being born with a clubfoot on his left leg, has developed into a 113-pound district champion this season and enters Saturday's sectional tournament as a No. 1 seed.

Lee’s Summit North head wrestling coach Mick Cronk said Dykes has overcome a lot of adversity this season to get to this point and winning districts was a big stepping stone for the freshman.

“Charlie got a late start when he came into the program because he had some issues going on,” Cronk said. “Ever since Charlie has been here, he has worked hard and he’s a great kid. From day one to right now, it’s night and day as far as a wrestler goes.

“He’s gotten progressively better throughout the year. He’s so coachable, and he busts his tail. He’s gone through a lot of adversity outside the room. I am so proud of him.”

When Dykes was younger, he often got physical with his three brothers at home when they were roughhousing. So his parents decided to enroll Dykes in wrestling.

“I was really aggressive with my siblings, so my mom wanted me to take it out on someone else,” Dykes said. “I got into fights with my brothers and they are a lot bigger. They would go for punches, so I would just go for the legs. It worked for me.”

Dykes was a natural wrestler when he was in seventh grade and rarely lost. When he wrestled then, the competition seemed too easy.

“In my first season, I lost one match because it was against kids that weren’t that good,” Dykes said. “Now it’s gotten harder at (high school).”

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Lee's Summit North freshman wrestler Charlie Dykes, left, works in a recent practice with teammate Owen Barnhill. Dykes, despite having a clubfoot on his left leg, has developed into a 113-pound district champion this season and enters Saturday's sectional tournament as a No. 1 seed.

Dykes has done well at both levels. Despite his left foot, Dykes said he can move as quickly as his opponents. However, there are challenges with wrestling with a sock on his left foot.

“I slip around on the mat sometimes, depending on the material,” Dykes said.

At the beginning of the season, Dykes’ opponents would start on his left side and go for a shot on the right leg. It was something the freshman struggled with at first, but he has since made adjustments.

“They would just hold this (right) leg because I have no muscle in (the left) leg,” Dykes said.

But while there are disadvantages, there are some advantages to the hook of his left foot, too.

“I am good at grabbing my opponent’s legs with my hook,” Dykes said. “I hold their leg with it and they can’t do anything about it. They get a little irritated when I do that.”

Lee's Summit North freshman wrestler Charlie Dykes, left, works in a recent practice with teammate Owen Barnhill. Dykes, despite having a clubfoot on his left leg, has developed into a 113-pound district champion this season and enters Saturday's sectional tournament as a No. 1 seed.

He’s also gotten better on his feet, Cronk said.

“On his feet, over the next year or so, you are going to see him grow a lot,” Cronk said. “That’s something he may not be the most confident in right now, but he’s actually really good. As his confidence grows on his feet, he will get even better.”

At sectionals, Dykes will have a tough bracket to get through to state. In previous years, the top four wrestlers in each weight class advanced to state from the district tournament. This season, the top four advance to sectionals from districts. Then only the top three move on to state from sectionals because of COVID-19 restrictions.

He has two ranked opponents in his bracket according to MissouriWrestling.com, including Staley’s Logan Burks (ranked No. 3) and Liberty’s Cooper Rider (ranked No. 4). Even with stiff competition, Dykes said he has a good shot at making it to state.

“Everyone loses, and I think I can beat them,” Dykes said. “I lost to them at the beginning of the season, but I think I have improved a lot in the season. I am looking to get them off guard.”

Lee's Summit North freshman wrestler Charlie Dykes, left, works on drills with teammate Owen Barnhill during a recent practice. Dykes, despite being born with a clubfoot on his left leg, has developed into a 113-pound district champion this season and enters Saturday's sectional tournament as a No. 1 seed.