Teen had caring nature, love of wrestling

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Forest Park's Anderson Peters and Jasper's Will Collon wrestle in the 220-pound weight class during the match in Ferdinand on Dec. 4, 2018. Wrestling was Anderson's biggest passion. The 16-year-old died Monday after collapsing at wrestling practice.


Anderson Peters

FERDINAND — A couple weeks ago Anderson Peters and his good friend Blake Nellis took Anderson’s new pickup truck out mudding. Around that same time, Blake taught Anderson to do his first burnout.

Those were some of the last memories the two Forest Park Junior-Senior High School juniors would make together.

Anderson died Monday at age 16 when his heart gave out due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart.

It happened during the first wrestling practice of the high school season. The team was walking laps to warm up when Anderson collapsed, his mom, Gaynell Peters of Ferdinand said. Wrestling was Anderson’s No. 1 passion, and Gaynell remembers he was so excited to get back to practice.

“He died in the place he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do,” Gaynell said.

Anderson was diagnosed with a thickness around his heart two years ago and was being monitored by doctors. At the time of the diagnosis, doctors said it was something to keep an eye on, but no reason for Anderson to quit wrestling. Good news to Anderson, who’d been wrestling since he was about 6 years old.

After the diagnosis, Anderson went for annual checkups to monitor his heart. This year’s checkup came just weeks before his death. Doctors had ordered an MRI, and Gaynell received a call from the doctor Monday with the results showing Anderson shouldn’t practice sports anymore. She immediately tried to call Anderson, but it was already too late. Rather than going to Forest Park to tell Anderson not to practice, Gaynell found herself driving to Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center instead.

Gaynell doesn’t blame wrestling for her son’s death. He was only walking, she said, and he could have been doing that anywhere. Now, she’s taking solace in the knowledge that he died doing what he loved and in the memories she has of him.

Anderson was born on Dec. 11, 2002, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Gaynell adopted him when he was about 5 months old. She adopted his sister, Marlena, from Guatemala as well. Gaynell said she decided to adopt because she was single and wanted children. She decided to attend an information meeting about adoption held in Evansville. There, she learned about several countries that had children up for adoption to Americans. For some reason, Guatemala stuck in her mind, she recalled. She first adopted Marlena. Then, a couple years later, she adopted Anderson. Those decisions were some of the best she’s ever made.

As a son, Anderson was loving and protective of his mother and sister. Gaynell recalled that he always used to tell her that he loved her. Now that he’s gone, she said she’ll most remember the hugs he gave and his smiles.

“Just how lovable he was to me and others,” Gaynell said.

Anderson never tried to hide his caring soul, and it showed in his interactions with others. In fact, it’s what started his friendship with Blake when they were freshman at Forest Park. Blake was new to the school, and Anderson was the first person to talk to him.

“We just clicked,” Blake recalled. “We’ve been good friends since then.”

The two could often be found together fishing or playing Xbox. Once Anderson got his truck, they rode around together a lot, just breaking in the new vehicle. They were also teammates on the wrestling team and were often partnered at practice.

“He could always roll me over if he wanted to,” Blake said. “He was a very good wrestler.”

Wrestling Coach Craig Recker would agree with Blake’s assessment. Recker coached Anderson throughout his 10-year wrestling career. As a larger kid, Recker said, Anderson was always in a higher weight class and often found himself wrestling athletes a year or two older than himself. That never deterred him, Recker recalled.

“He would say, ‘Coach, I’ll do my best,’” Recker said.

Turned out his best was pretty good, and Anderson always found a way to do whatever Recker asked of him. Still, Anderson was always seeking to get better. At home in his free time, he could often be found watching professional and college wrestling on his phone, and this summer he attended a wrestling camp.

When the Forest Park wrestlers reported to practice Monday, Anderson was one of the most excited to be there, showing up with his signature big smile.

“It was pretty difficult to get that smile off his face,” Recker said.

Anytime the teammates would joke around, Anderson was right there in the middle of it. Although not an outspoken kid, Recker said, he was an integral part of the team that everybody liked. His kindness and good nature made him the team teddy bear. Everyone loved to be around him.

“He was just a special kid that just didn’t get to finish the job, you might say,” Recker said. “He will be sadly missed.”

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, with burial to follow in the church cemetery.

Visitation will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. today and from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Becher Funeral Home in Ferdinand.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association or a favorite charity.

Online condolences may be shared at www.becherfuneralhome.com. There is also a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral costs that can be found here.

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