AMES — In this day and age, the "Christmas Miracle" can seemingly happen at any given time thanks to the power of social media.
That's exactly what took place when former Iowa Central two-time national champion Todd Small signed his letter of intent to compete for Iowa State University, and life-long wrestling fan Bridget Schlievert responded on Twitter.
For Schlievert, a 2003 graduate of Algona High School, she could never have imagined how much of an impact that simple post would have, especially on her nine-year-old son, Corbin.
"I started following him and wished him congratulations," Schlievert said. "He started to see my posts about Corbin and told me he wanted to meet him in person. They got to meet at Iowa State's Fan Fest in August of 2018 and ever since then, whenever we're in Ames or going through, if Todd is around, he wants to meet Corbin."
The friendship was an instant hit, with Small and Corbin forming a strong bond.
"The relationship between Corbin and I means a lot to me because I know I've been able to make an impact on his life and he has been able to make an impact on my life, as well," Small said. "Corbin has been very inspirational to me in my life ever since that first meeting. I knew that I was pretty special to him. He pushes me to want to go hard every time I step out on the mat because I know how much he loves the sport of wrestling, and I know that every time I do well on the mat it puts a smile on his face — which makes me happy."
Small and Bridget have also grown closer over the past two years.
"It's been awesome," Small said. "She is a wonderful person and one of the biggest wrestling fans I've ever met. She has been nothing but welcoming to me since the day that I made my commitment to Iowa State. It is very rare to run into a person like Bridget. She has always supported me since day one and she continues to push me and motivate me to be the best wrestler and person that I can be."
And Small definitely is not understating the passion Bridget has for wrestling. She was a manager for both the Buena Vista University and University of Northern Iowa teams and worked as a spotter during the NCAA Div. I National Championships in both New York City and St. Louis.
"I've been around the sport my entire life," said Schlievert, who now lives in Urbandale with Corbin. "My dad helped with Bullpup wrestling, the kids program in Algona. When I was little, Algona wrestling coach Leon 'Champ' Martin lived a couple blocks away from me and I went to nearly every dual growing up. At Buena Vista's orientation day, there wrestlers who turned into life-long friends nicknamed me 'The Wrestling Almanac.'
"One time, Al Baxter, the Buena Vista coach at the time, introduced me to Dan Gable and told him 'This girl knows more about wrestling than any of my guys combined.'"
For Corbin, the relationship has been "awesome."
"He's my best friend," Corbin said. "Wrestling and hanging out with Todd (is the best). It's so exciting (watching him wrestle). I like to hear his name and watch him run out the tunnel."
Bridget called the bond between her son and Small "greater than I could have ever imagined and something I'm truly grateful for."
"College students are busy, and add in being an athlete, that makes you even busier," she said. "For Todd to take the time and energy to foster a friendship with Corbin has been nothing short of phenomenal. He believes anything is possible for Corbin's future and doesn't look at him differently because he is on the autism spectrum. That truly says a lot about Todd's character and how genuine of a person he is."
Small, a native of Georgia who won two high school state titles, went 14-4 last year while competing unattached for the Cyclones. He is currently 14-4 and ranked by several media outlets at 133 pounds.
"My season has been going well, but I think that it could also be going a lot better moving forward," Small said. "I know there is still a lot of work to be done, but there's also a lot of season left. Just know that every day I step in a practice is a new day that I am able to get better motivates me.
"Wrestling for the Cyclones has been awesome and a dream come true. Being able to put on a single and compete inside Hilton Coliseum in front of Iowa State fans is like nothing else. I always pictured myself in high school wrestling for a team like Iowa State."
Iowa State returns to action Jan. 1-2 in Chattanooga, Tenn. at the Southern Scuffle. They wrestle inside Hilton Coliseum next on Jan. 19 vs. North Dakota State.