Mascot Mania wrestling event turns kids into superheroes

Sep 20, 2023, 10:10 PM | Updated: 11:07 pm

HERRIMAN, Utah — Hitting a guy on the head with a guitar sure looked like a lot of fun. 

The crowd that gathered at Herriman High School Wednesday night was there to see it happen.

“Yeah!” screamed lots of children in the stands.

One of them was 9-year-old Finn Merkley.He has been thinking about this wrestling event for months.

Just ask his mom.

9-year-old Finn Merkley

9-year-old Finn Merkley and his mother wait for Finn’s turn in the ring with a pesky mascot. (KSL TV)

“Oh yeah. He wants to wrestle first. He has got his John Cena outfit on and he is ready to roll,” Amber Merkley said.

The thing is, Finn wrestles every day with a tough opponent called Down Syndrome.

“He has congenital heart disease also,” his mother said. “He has had open heart surgery and he has sleep apnea and wears a CPAP and just kind of a lot of different things that goes with it.”

Many of the kids at the wrestling event have similar challenges.

However, being here with all their tag-team partners, well, even the toughest opponent was no match.

“They all feel loved and wanted and accepted,” Merkley said. “That is amazing for a lot of these kids who feel different.”

The event, called Mascot Mania, was put on by the Mascot Miracles Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives of children facing tough challenges.

“For this moment in time, we can take all that away and just take them someplace that they’ve never been before and that is what we are here for,” said David Ulibarri, who is on the Mascot Miracles Foundation advisory board.

Team mascots were a big part of this event, as with any event the Foundation puts on.

Mascots from sports teams like the Salt Lake Bees and the Utah Grizzlies were in the gym, as well as Swoop, who is the Philadelphia Eagles mascot, and the Chick-fil-A cow.

“The kids love the mascots,” Ulibarri said. “We have had parents over the years email us because they couldn’t call us without crying, and it was the first time they heard them audibilize was when they saw that mascot.”

For this event, kids even got to wrestle those mascots.

Finn sure got in on the action, walking into the ring with the kind of intimidation pro wrestler John Cena would be proud of.

It showed him, and all the other kids, that no matter what life throws at you, you can always do your best to fight back.

“It just is a time for him, and for us, to have fun,” Merkley said. “This is a big deal for our family.”

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Mascot Mania wrestling event turns kids into superheroes