A college wrestler from a small Wyoming school helped his teammate survive a grizzly mauling over the weekend by trying to wrestle the massive bear off his friend, eventually drawing a more brutal attack to himself.
The men are crediting their bonds as wrestling teammates at Northwest College in Cody, Wyoming, with helping them survive the attack Saturday night southeast of Yellowstone National Park.
Brady Lowry, of Cedar City, Utah, suffered a broken arm and puncture wounds in the initial attack after they surprised the bear while searching for antlers shed by elk and deer in the Shoshone National Forest.
“The bear came running out of the trees. I didn’t even see it until it was right in front of me, but I heard the crashing,” Lowry told ABC News in an interview that aired Wednesday on “Good Morning America.” “The only thing I could yell is: ‘Bear! Bear!’ I just knew I had to protect my head and just kind of fight for life, you know — it’s life or death.”
His teammate, Kendell Cummings, of Evanston, Wyoming, tried to stop the attack on Lowry by yelling, kicking and hitting the bear and pulling on its fur.
“I didn’t want to lose my friend. It was bad,” Cummings told the Deseret News. “There was a big ol’ bear on top of him. I could have run and potentially lost a friend or get him off and save him.”
The bear quickly turned its fury onto Cummings.
“It knocked me onto the ground and then, with its head, pushed me on the ground all the way up against the trees and then kind of pinned me up there and it was attacking me,” Cummings told ABC News. “I was putting my hands in its mouth and stuff, so it wouldn’t be chewing on my neck and everything.”
Cummings said the bear eventually walked away but was gone only briefly.
“I heard the bear kind of grunting behind me, and I heard it walking,” Cummings said. “Then I saw it again, and it came and attacked me again.”
After the bear left a second time, Cummings pulled himself up and began looking for his teammates. In the meantime, Lowry was able to walk to an area with cell service and call 911.
Two other teammates, August Harrison and Orrin Jackson, helped badly injured Cummings off the mountain, carrying him at times. Lowry was able to walk by himself.
Both ended up at Billings (Montana) Clinic Hospital, where Cummings underwent surgery. Neither man was listed as a patient there Tuesday, hospital spokesperson Zach Benoit said.
Other members of the wrestling team joined coach Jim Zeigler at the hospital to support their injured teammates.
“I’m proud of them, just the way they love each other, they way they protected each other, the way they stuck together,” Zeigler told the Deseret News. “I can’t imagine the horror, the terror of it. I don’t think they realized until after it was over how frightening it was. They just did what they did, helped each other survive, and they lived to tell about it and I’m proud of them.”
Dallas Lowry credited Cummings with saving his son’s life.
“That young man over there — Kendell is a hero,” Dallas Lowry told KSL-TV. “Any normal person would have turned and ran, but these bonds that they build in college athletics last forever.”
Brady Lowry echoed his father’s remarks.
“Me and [Cummings] would both be dead if it wasn’t all four of us — if it wasn’t for [Cummings] pulling the hair, if it wasn’t for [Harrison] running up and scaring the bear away and not coming back for more,” Brady Lowry told KSL. “It was a team effort. We love each other. We’re going to be best friends for the rest of our lives because of this.”
Wyoming wildlife officials said they will not try to capture and relocate or kill the bear because it was a surprise attack and because there are many other bears in the area, making it difficult for them to determine which bear was involved.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.