A group of college wrestlers from Wyoming faced their toughest opponent yet this weekend.
Kendell Cummings and Brady Lowry — wrestling teammates at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming — were mauled by a grizzly bear Saturday while hunting for antlers.
The young men were released from a Billings, Montana hospital this week, confident that “someone out there is looking out for me and Kendell,” Lowry told CNN affiliate KSL.
Lowry was the first grizzly to attack, he told CNN.
While walking back to his car with Cummings, Lowry said he noticed bear marks on the ground. Just as he began to point them out to his friend, “he began to hear a bang come through the wood.”
Lowry said he only had time to yell “Bear! Bear!” before the grizzly tackled him, causing him to fall about five meters off a small ledge.
“It started to eat me up pretty good. It grabbed my left arm, it shook me around, broke my left arm.”
Cummings tried to get the bear’s attention by yelling and throwing things at it, and when that didn’t work, “he jumped down and grabbed the bear … and tore it off me.”
Then the bear came after Cummings.
Cummings told KSL the bear “tackled me, chewed me up a little bit.”
The bear wandered off and Cummings called out for Lowry, according to KSL. But before hearing an answer, the bear came back for round two, this time biting Cummings on the head and cheek, the KSL report said.
Lowry said he ran up the mountain to call 911, and after reaching emergency personnel, they happened to look down and see August Harrison and Orrin Jackson — two other teammates he and Cummings were separated from during the hike.
The three linked up and Harrison continued back up the mountain to find Cummings.
Harrison said he found Cummings “limping down the mountain, soaked in blood.”
“(Cummings) asked me how he looked and I said, ‘You look good, we’re going!'”
The group took turns carrying Cummings – who sustained the worst of the injuries – back to the trailhead. They said they walked about a kilometer before being picked up by farmers and eventually emergency personnel.
Lowry and Cummings are expected to make full recoveries — a reality Lowry attributes to the bond between his teammates.
“We become best friends who go through hell and back with each other. Seeing someone sweat and bleed … training teaches us that. You’re not going to leave a brother behind,” he said.
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), there has been an “abundance of bear activity at low elevations” throughout the national forest.
“In the vicinity where the attack occurred, reports from landowners and hunters indicate there may be six to 10 different bears moving between agricultural fields and low-lying slopes,” Dan Smith, Cody Region wildlife manager, said in a news release.
Smith said the WGFD will work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor bear activity in the area to “make the best possible public safety management decisions.”