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November 22, 2004

Teen proud to represent state in deaf sports

From: Johnson County Daily Journal - Franklin,IN,USA - Nov 22, 2004

Daily Journal staff writer

Nov. 22, 2004

A few days into the new year, 17-year-old Joseph Pfaff will be the first Hoosier wrestler to participate in the Deaflympics.

Of course, her son also hopes to bring home the gold, says Josephs mother, Beatrice Pfaff of Franklin.

Like his mother; his father, Darrell Pfaff; and his older brother, Daniel, a 21-year-old student at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., Joseph was born deaf.

Her younger son comes by his love for wrestling in a natural way, Beatrice Pfaff says through an interpreter.

Josephs father coached wrestling at the Indiana School for the Deaf until two years ago when the wrestling program was stopped. Daniel Pfaff also grew up on the wrestling mat.

Encouraged by his older brothers athletic abilities in wrestling, Joseph started wrestling when he was 6 years old, Beatrice says. Two years later, he was involved with AAU wrestling.

Since then, Joseph has excelled not just in wrestling but in many other sports.

Beatrice thumbs through an Indiana School for the Deaf yearbook. She proudly points at photographs of Daniel, in wrestling competitions, and Joseph, smiling as a member of the track team, the basketball team and the wrestling team.

At the beginning of his senior year at Indiana School for the Deaf, Joseph and his family made a difficult decision.

After qualifying to compete in the 20th Deaflympics, set in Melbourne, Australia, from Jan. 5 to 16, Joseph needed to relocate.

Because only Joseph and another student showed interest in wrestling, the program was stopped at the high school level two years ago, says Pam Lewis, secretary to the principal at the deaf school.

Though enough freshmen now exhibit an interest for the wrestling mats to be dragged out again for competition, Joseph relocated to the Maryland School for the Deaf. Darrell Pfaff also relocated to Maryland and now works as a teachers aide at Maryland School for the Deaf.

It was hard for me, as a mother, Beatrice says of the move. Joseph can play all sports, anything. And hes a real leader.

Joseph now participates in the highly developed wrestling training program at the Maryland School for the Deaf.

The coach there will be going to the Deaflympics, too, Beatrice says from her kitchen table.

At Maryland School for the Deaf, Joseph not only is training for the Deaflympics, he also is playing football, his mother says with a smile.

His favorite thing is challenge, Beatrice says. He loves a challenge.

First organized in 1924 by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, the Deaflympics will host 80 nations in 2005. Joseph will be among more than 3,000 deaf athletes competing for gold in the games.

Because deaf athletes cannot be guided by starters guns, bullhorns or referee whistles, and because their communication needs are different on the sports field, competition with hearing athletes is not possible.

Thats why this organization, run totally by deaf people for deaf athletes, is such an important part of the deaf community.

Beatrice Pfaff has taught classes for more than 20 years at the Indiana School for the Deaf. She also teaches American Sign Language at Vincennes University and Ball State University.

In her limited spare time, Pfaff has been selling Christmas wreaths and personalized Santa letters as fund-raising efforts to help Joseph raise at least two thousand more dollars to get to Australia.

Both of her sons have a wonderful competitive spirit that carries them far past the obstacles of hearing impairments, Beatrice Pfaff says.

I just gave them my strong will, she says.

Through Internet contact, Joseph Pfaff wrote that he practices for the Olympic wrestling competition three times weekly.

It feels so great to be going to the Deaflympics in Australia as a deaf teen in America, Joseph wrote. Its a big honor for me to attend at my age. Wrestling is inside me. I love it.

© 2004 The Daily Journal, Johnson County, Indiana.