NWC News Desk

Northwest College Wrestler Honored For Extraordinary Heroism

Posted March 28, 2024
By Trapper Athletics

Courtesy of the Powell Tribune

Kendell Cummings isn’t sure what he’ll do when he returns home after graduating from Northwest College, but he’ll be taking a rare medal with him when he goes. The Trapper wrestler who grabbed a grizzly bear by the ear to save his friend has now been honored for his heroism.

He was recently announced as one of the latest group of heroes who will receive the Carnegie Medal for Heroism, North America’s highest honor for civilian heroism. The medal is given to U.S. and Canadian citizens who enter extreme danger while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

Cummings and a group of three of his teammates were hiking in the South Fork of the Shoshone National Forest on Oct. 15, 2022, when he and Brady Lowry discovered fresh bear scat after getting separated from the other two friends. Suddenly a grizzly bear came out of the brush and attacked Lowry, knocking him to the ground and biting him.

Cummings came running and, without bear spray on hand, he yelled and threw rocks and sticks at the bear while it continued to attack Lowry. Nothing was deterring the bear so Cummings ran up behind the 450-pound apex predator and grabbed it by the ear.

“I remember pulling on its ear,” Cummings said before the bear responded to his attempts to get the bear off Lowry. “We just looked at each other for like a half second. And then it was kind of like, man, it's on.”

According to the Carnegie Hero Fund’s account of the event, the bear swung its head around and pursued Cummings as he ran, while Lowry escaped to get help. The grizzly bear attacked Cummings twice, biting him numerous times in his arm, leg and head, before it eventually walked away.

“It was crazy strong. There's nothing that could prepare me for that. It really could have done whatever it wanted to me,” he said.

Lowry managed to get a cellphone signal and called 911 before finding the other friends, August Harrison and Orrin Jackson, as they rushed to the scene. They began searching for Cummings, eventually finding him as he was attempting to descend from the mountain. They picked him up and carried him to the road, looking for help.

Curt Bales, manager of TE Ranch, was first on the scene. He has previously reported a high number of grizzly bears in the area.

“Quite often we’ll have 11 to 13 bears, spring and fall both, coming in and out of our fields,” Bales said during an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meeting the following spring.  

Lowry and Cummings were taken to a hospital to be treated for their injuries. Lowry suffered a fractured arm and puncture wounds to his body. Cummings sustained puncture wounds to his arms, legs, head and face.

Lowry was able to wrestle in the 149-pound division in 2023 and named an All-American before finishing his final season in fifth place in the NJCAA National Tournament. Cummings, who wrestled in the 141-pound division, was forced to redshirt in his sophomore year due to his injuries, but returned to action this past season.

“I had few good matches,” he said.

After the attack the news of his heroic actions went viral, landing him in the national spotlight. All the attention makes him nervous.

“I don't like to talk about it, I guess. I don’t want to be that guy, I guess, that's saying ‘look at me,’” he said.

Since the attack, the four wrestlers have been working on a documentary with Nathaniel "Coyote" Peterson, a famous YouTuber, wildlife educator, and host of Animal Planet's series “Coyote Peterson: Brave the Wild.” He is best known for his YouTube channel Brave Wilderness, which focuses on documenting and educating about animals.

The four wrestlers met back at the scene of the attack on the one year anniversary for the documentary. Cummings was glad to have a large team with him for the reunion.

“It was kind of cool to go back there again. It was something that I’d been wanting to do. We had a bunch of guys out there and everything. I felt pretty safe,” he said.

The feature will be published after the crew and the wrestlers finish filming a segment in Alaska.

“We're gonna go up and just, like, hang out with those bears — kind of super close,” Cummings said.

The experience isn’t what he thought he would learn in college. He said one of the lessons he’ll never forget is that life is short.

“It can be over like that,” he said, adding that it has also taught him to always do the right thing for other people.

He is undecided if he should continue his college career at a four year school or join a company after graduating this year. He plans to go home for a little while, then he’ll work in northern Utah building fences for the summer before deciding what is next.

Cummings is one of 17 individuals to be honored by the Carnegie Hero Fund this year, including a trained water rescuer who entered a capsized boat when other professional rescuers were unable, a recreational rock climber who ascended slick sandstone to save a badly injured BASE jumper in Utah, and a 40-year-old delivery driver who ran into a gunfight to drag a wounded police officer to safety in Texas.

“All the men and women recognized today, in acts of extraordinary heroism, risked serious injury or death to save others,” said Jewels Phraner, director of outreach and communications for the organization.