Two Ga. college wrestlers in critical condition

ALBANY — One of three Darton State College wrestlers stricken by heat-related illness during the school’s first week of practice was airlifted early Sunday morning to a Florida hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

Freshman Ben Richards was transported from Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Richards, a 197-pounder from Tampa, Fla., was taken to Shands after showing signs of liver failure.

Last Tuesday during the first day of practice, freshman Alex Washington fell victim to heat-related illness. Mike Kiefer, athletic director at Darton, said the athletic training staff responded and saw that he was transported to Phoebe, where he remained Monday in serious condition.

The next day, Richards and freshman Jaden Smith collapsed during a five-mile run. Smith was taken to Phoebe where he was treated and released on Friday.

School officials said Monday that while both Richards and Washington remain in the critical care units, “medical personnel have advised us that both are making progress.”

Darton Athletic Director Mike Kiefer said last week that after Washington became ill, additional water sessions were instituted — as well as extra ones as the wrestlers felt they needed them — and the team was given more education on proper nutrition and hydration. Now, he said, officials are speaking with medical and training experts to see how protocols can be further modified.

There were no incidents of heat-related illness with the wrestling team last year, Kiefer added.

As far as other modifications are concerned, Kiefer said that the wrestling team was no longer going to have afternoon conditioning sessions outdoors, and that there will be nutrition and hydration logs maintained for the athletes.

Darton officials said Monday that practice for the wrestling team, shut down after the second incident, is scheduled to resume on Wednesday. Until then, the coaches will continue educating the athletes on nutrition and hydration.