Wyoming college wrestlers recount grizzly bear attack survivors

POWELL — It’s the story of a grizzly bear attack that gained national attention thanks to the bravery and strength shown by four college teammates that led to their survival.

A bear attacked a man in the Wyoming desert. His friend jumped in to save him and suffered the worst, but as he recounted Wednesday, it was the right thing to do. In a desperate move that almost cost him his life, he grabbed a handful of bear fur and pulled with all his might.

“I had to take it off. I had to do something. I couldn’t watch my friend tear up in front of me,” Kendell Cummings told MTN News in Powell, where he is recovering from his injuries.

When teammates from Northwest College in northern Wyoming decided to hit the Bobcat-Houlihan Trail on Saturday for a shed hunt, they didn’t expect it to happen.

“We probably got back five or six miles and it was a little late. We found a couple sheds (horns), we all found a couple, and we were there, and we decided it was time to turn around and go back to the truck,” Brady Lowry said.

Then the group split up. Cummings and Lowry were traveling together and were separated from their other two teammates, Orrin Jackson and August Harrison, about 10 minutes before the attack happened.

“I looked over at Kendell and he was probably only about 15 meters away from me and I thought, ‘man, bear signs are everywhere’ and right after I said that that’s when the trees started crashing… the only thing I had time to say is: ‘Bear! Bear!” Lowry said.

Then the grizzly bear pounced on Lowry, knocking him off the small ledge, leaving Cummings looking in horror over the grizzly and his friend.

“I miss it. I brought my arm back to protect the first first bite and his bite broke my arm and it just kept throwing me down, just do whatever. I was helpless,” Lowry said.

That helpless moment is when his friend jumped into action by being the first to yell and throw anything he could find at the bear.

“Nothing worked. The bear was just focused on Brady and was catching Brady. So I ended up going up there, right next to him, and I grabbed the bear and pulled him away from Brady, and the bear kind of looked at me and took me to the ground and started attacking me,” Cummings said.

Lowry got up and ran to call 911 and find his friends, but Cummings didn’t know that and called to make sure his teammate was OK.

“But when I called Brady, I think the bear knew I was still in the area and still a threat. So it came back and got me again,” Cummings said.

As the attacks took place, Harrison and Jackson lost sight of their friends and were completely unaware of what was happening.

“We finally got to the bottom of the pool and when we finally found them, that’s when Brady was coming down the mountain yelling for help,” Harrison said.

Lowry then said, “They finally got what I told them and they kind of rushed to where I was, and we were probably 100, 150 yards below where the bear attacked us.”

Jackson remembers the feeling of having to walk back up the mountain in search of Cummings.

“We thought Kendell was dead, really, and we were honestly ready to go out there and find his body,” Jackson said.

But he wasn’t dead. During the second attack, he fainted and believes that is why the bear left him alone. After lying there for three minutes, waiting to make sure the bear was gone, he got up and started down the mountain.

“I’m about halfway there [down] before I could hear August yelling at me and I kind of fought back and then we connected and they pulled me off the mountain,” Cummings recounts.

The young men still had to make their way to the hospital. With the help of a farmer in the area, the teammates reached the first track.

“When I was riding in that side by side, I was cold and that’s when it started to hit me that I was under attack and I needed serious help,” Cummings said.

Once at the trailhead, the group met up with local search and rescue teams. Cummings was flown by rescue helicopter to a hospital in Billings, and Lowry was later transported by ambulance to the same hospital. Both suffered serious injuries, but were later released from the hospital.

“I thank, you know, every single one of them, and I’m sure Kendell too. Really, it was a miracle that everything was a miracle, the whole story,” Lowry said.

“I’m glad they’re both out now and we can be together,” Jackson followed.

The youngsters expect to eventually return to the wrestling mat, but for now, Cummings is at home in Evanston, Wyoming, to continue his recovery.

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