Four college wrestlers say they’re thankful to be alive — and for each other — after going toe-to-toe with a grizzly bear in Wyoming over the weekend.
Brayden Lowry, Kendell Cummings, August Harrison and Orrin Jackson, all students and wrestling teammates at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, said they were searching for fallen antlers in the Shoshone National Forest on Saturday when Lowry and Cummings suddenly encountered a grizzly bear . The animal attacked and tackled Lowry first.
“The bear came running out of the trees. I didn’t see it until it was right in front of me, but I heard the crash,” Lowry told ABC News in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on “Good Morning America.” “
“All I could shout is, ‘Bear! Bear!'” he recalled. “I just knew I had to protect my head and just fight for my life, you know – it’s life or death.”
Cummings tried to help his teammate by yelling at, grabbing and punching the bear — until the animal turned on him.
“It knocked me to the ground and then pushed me headfirst up against the trees and kind of put me up there and it attacked me,” Cummings told ABC News. “I put my hands in it’s mouth and stuff so it wouldn’t chew my neck and all.”
The bear finally walked away, but returned a short time later as Cummings called out to his injured teammate.
“I heard the bear grunt behind me and I heard it go,” Cummings recalled. “Then I saw it again and it came and attacked me again.”
Eventually, Cummings and Lowry were able to escape, reunite with their other teammates and call 911.
“I talked to the lady on the phone — the dispatch lady — and we coordinated a plan to get Flight for Life there,” Jackson told ABC News. “I remember telling her, ‘That’s our brother up there’.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said in a statement Monday that it “is in the process of gathering additional details; the investigation into the incident is ongoing.”
“Based on initial information, this appears to be a sudden, surprise encounter with a grizzly bear,” the agency added. “For the past few weeks, there has been an abundance of bear activity at low elevations throughout the South Fork and North Fork of the Shoshone River, Clarks Fork River and Greybull River drainages. Game and Fish urges anyone recreating in these areas to exercise caution and pay attention.”
Cummings was transported to the Billings Clinic in Cody, Wyoming, where he received 60 staples in his head. Lowry was taken to the same hospital via ambulance and was treated for a compound fracture of his left arm.
“For us to walk out of there alive, all four of us, it’s a miracle. It really is,” Lowry said.
ABC News’ Jeffrey Cook, Jon Haworth and Mola Lenghi contributed to this report.