Life includes a lot of challenges, and UNI Panthers' wrestling head coach Doug Schwab doesn’t think anyone should face those alone. So when Cruse Aarhus, one of his former student-athletes, wanted to complete a rope climb the distance of Mount Everest (29,029 feet) to support a young relative with cancer, Schwab decided to join him.

One-year-old Avery Flick of West Liberty has been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that attacks the muscle cells. Avery has had part of her liver and 47 percent of her intestines removed, Aarhus said.

“I didn’t do this for the publicity,” said Schwab. “I didn’t even feel our part was a story. It was just the right thing to do. It’s good to know there are people out there supporting you and fighting for you. We have other guys on our team who know someone with cancer. So it’s great if we can raise awareness, support and inspire them.”

He said there are many people who face a lot of adversity in their lives, and it’s a reminder of the struggles some people face every day.

Doug Schwab / Courtesy: UNI Athletics

“We are always looking for ways to challenge ourselves and do something extreme,” said Schwab. “With wrestling, it’s our mentality. This is a way we can raise some awareness of her situation.”

Sponsors have donated prizes to engage supporters in a social media challenge.

“The wrestling community is close, and they like to rally around things,” said Aarhus. “So I thought they could throw a couple of dollars out for a little girl in need.”

This isn’t Schwab’s first time completing the rope climb challenge. Two years ago, he finished in 30 days. He didn’t want to do it again, because it is a painful experience. However, when he heard what Avery was going through, he was willing to support Cruse’s efforts.

“It’s a painful experience, but the pain we will go through is minimal compared to what she is going through,” said Schwab.

The pair start the challenge Sept. 1 and plan to finish at the end of the month while Avery receives chemotherapy treatments in Texas.

Ideally, Schwab would like to celebrate her second birthday with his goal completed. That would mean he needs to make 63 rope climbs in UNI’s wrestling room each day.

“It doesn’t seem like many,” said Schwab. “But once you start getting day after day, muscles and parts of your body you never thought would ache start to ache.”


Ideally, Cruse would like people to pledge per rope climb. For example, a 10-cent pledge would equal $142.50 donation. However, he will take any type of donation. Many have helped by giving $20 to help cover her medical expenses.

Supporters have been encouraged to take a part in the challenge and show their support on social media. Cruse will post videos on social media of his climbs and ask others to post evidence of their support.

The climbers may not be completing the entire challenge, but they may have completed a rope climb in record speed or be someone very young. The point of the social media challenge will to post something that catches the eye of his team monitoring the sites.

Fans and donors can follow the progress and show support on social media. Those looking to participate in the social media challenges can use the hashtags #EverestChallenge and #TeamAvery. To find on social media:
Facebook - The Everest Challenge
Twitter - @MtEverestRope
Instagram - @EverestChallenge2015