Ohio State wrestler and football player Kosta Karageorge was found dead in a dumpster back in November of 2014. It was a loss that shocked a community, and helped bring attention to the issue of head trauma in football.

In a New York Times profile by Tim Rohan, he details the upbringing of Karageorge, as well as his urge to never want to miss a game or a wrestling meet because he had head injuries. It wasn’t the “manly” thing to do.

Rohan details how Karageorge’s father George and his brother Jim grew up. He describes how Jim cracked three football helmets and high school, and how “the trainer essentially had to beg him to quit,” because he suffered so many injuries. George and Jim raised Kosta on the same “toughness”

Stress started early for Kosta, as early as eighth grade:

Around the same time, the family noticed Karageorge was developing small bald spots. He was so self-conscious that he kept his hair buzzed short to hide them. A doctor diagnosed stress-related alopecia, attributed to all the sports-related pressure he was experiencing.

Karageorge’s obsession with being great was paying off, but hurting him at the same time. Rohan details how Karageorge was so good at wrestling, that 10 kids forfeited because they didn’t want to wrestle him. He was that intimidating.

Karageorge had shown mental instability far before he suffered more head trauma. His longtime wrestling coach Jeremiah Webber found Karageorge at his house after he was not at wrestling practice:

Webber drove to Karageorge’s house, let himself in the back door and found Karageorge alone in the basement. He was sitting on his weight bench, cleaning two of his guns, a pistol and a rifle, with tears streaming down his face. “I don’t know if I can win the state title,” he said.

Alarmed, Webber wanted an explanation. Karageorge said cleaning his guns helped him relax, and Webber persuaded him to return to practice. Webber later pulled Karageorge aside. “What’s going on in your head? Are you O.K.?”

“I don’t know,” Karageorge said. “I’m just so nervous. I’m so scared.”

“Were you going to hurt yourself today?”

“No. I don’t know. No.”

Rohan says that one of Karageorge’s first concussions was suffered early in high school while wrestling. As he started facing opponents closer to his size in college, he sustained more head injuries.

Along with his sports obsession, Rohan describes Karageorge as being a gun connoisseur:

Following his father’s and his uncle’s lead, he took his first gun safety course at 11 and went on his first hunting trip as a young teenager. He brought his friends skeet shooting and to the gun range for fun. He attended gun shows, built his gun collection and bought and sold guns on Craigslist.

“He was very much into the machinery — the power behind them,” his sister, Sophia, said.

The tipping point for Karageorge was an argument with his girlfriend on the night of the famous Mirror Lake Jump, where students jump into the cold lake at midnight.

Karageorge and his friend went to find her, but she did not come outside to talk to him. After getting back to his room, Karageorge told the story to his roommate Mark Martin. Karageorge changed into the black pants and hoodie that he would later be found in, with his hands stuffed in the pouch.

From Rohan:

Then Karageorge reached out to those closest to him, opening up about the pain he was experiencing in his head in a way he never had before and saying his goodbyes.

“man im breakin my head isnt right,” he texted Webber around 1:25 a.m.

Webber was asleep at home. He was still sleeping when Karageorge sent him another message about five minutes later: “love u man.”

Karageorge texted his mother, apologizing if he had been an embarrassment to the family, blaming the “concussioms” for messing with his head. Karageorge messaged Jordan, too, urging him to fulfill his dream and win four national championships, telling him he loved him.

Karageorge’s brain was examined after his death, where Tau was found in his brain. It is the protein most often associated with CTE. Neuropathologist Ann McKee diagnosed Stage 1 CTE on a scale of 1 to 4.

The entire story is a must-read. It is very chilling, but also very sad to read the details of the gradual downward spiral that Karageorge went on. The idea of being “manly” scared Karageorge into continue to compete and push his body to unhealthy limits.

[New York Times/Image: Ohio State University]

About Harry Lyles Jr.

Harry Lyles Jr. is an Atlanta-based writer, and a Georgia State University graduate.