WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Zach Gowen lost his leg to cancer at 8 years old, but it didn’t stop him from becoming a professional wrestler. He recently was in the Piedmont and shared his inspirational story with FOX8.
"I don't have a crazy mask or a crazy name. I wear pretty basic gear and what you see is what you get, because what I portray in the ring is my real-life story, right, which is a one-legged wrestler, someone who is not even supposed to be here, someone who has overcome odds to live out his dream. So, what I do, I am a physical representation of what can happen when you never give up," Gowen said.
Gowen could have given up. He was diagnosed with cancer after a soccer injury would not heal.
"It never healed was because of a tumor growing above my left kneecap on my femur. So, in order to save my life, they took my leg away," he said.
So, at just 8 years old his leg was amputated.
"I lost my leg to the battle of cancer at 8 years old, but I won the war of life because it's been 25 years and I'm cancer-free and I'm standing tall," he said.
During his recovery and during his adjustment period to his new normal, he fell in love with professional wrestling.
"Through those hard times, through that tragedy, one thing that got me through and that was my love of professional wrestling. So that love grew into a passion that passion grew into an obsession and at 18 years old I made history. I became the world's first one-legged professional wrestler," he said.
He spent time with the WWE and at least one other wrestling circuit. Drugs and alcohol, however, ended that part of his career, but his love of the sport is as strong as ever and he travels to do individual wrestling shows, which he calls an art form.
"It's an amazing display of athleticism," Gowen said. "Stunt work, improv, comedy, acting, action, drama and all those things rolled into one with crowd participation. You really can't beat it. To me it's the best
Gowen is a model of perseverance. He's competed on American Ninja Warrior, is a motivational speaker and the father to his two sons that he never had.
"How we respond to what happens to us defines who we are. We have the strength and response and we can respond to life no matter what adversity or challenges get thrown our way through overcoming them. That's where life is lived," he said.
Gowan has climbed mountains both figuratively and literally in his life and by sharing his story he hopes to inspire others to do the same, no matter what their mountains are.