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Vo’s Little Pros: Playing with diabetes

Morro Bay High School freshman Johnathan Riley is an impressive athlete. He golfs, plays baseball, and is a stellar wrestler all while managing type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Riley was diagnosed at four years old but never let slow down his athletic lifestyle.

A typical day for Riley starts with wrestling practice at the high school.

“To me, this is one of the toughest sports out there, if not the toughest sport out there and he’s got a varsity letter already. He’s placed at varsity tournaments as a freshman and he doesn’t let anything hold him back,” said Michael Aanerud, Morro Bay head wrestling coach. “I think it’s a good message to the rest of the team and to anyone else who sees him compete, that it doesn’t matter what you’re facing, you can overcome it and be successful too.”

After wrestling practice, he’ll start baseball practice with his dad.

“He’s always had a really good batting average because his hand-eye coordination is so good. He hits the ball, you’re going to get on base,” Johnathan’s father Charles Riley explained.

In 2015, Riley won the MLB local and sectional home run derby and advanced to the finals held at the Dodger’s training facility in Los Angeles. The following year, Riley won the MLB Pitch, Hit, and Run contest for the local and sectional part of the state, once again advancing to the finals, this time at Dodger Stadium.

After baseball practice, he spends time at the links.

What you might not see during his 25-30 hours of practice a week is what it takes to manage his diabetes. He’s constantly checking his blood sugar levels, his insulin pump, managing health scares, and making sure he’s always carrying his emergency insulin injection in case he goes into a diabetic coma.

Riley is open about his diabetes but he doesn’t allow it to stop living his life to the fullest.

“I hope my message is not only to people with diabetes but anybody who has struggles or certain things that they’re worried about, don’t be afraid of them. Do what you want to do, because most of the time you can control it,” Riley said. “For diabetes, if someone was viewed this and was thinking about playing sports, I would definitely recommend it because you can do anything you want and it won’t affect you at all. If you manage it and take care of it, then it’s like your best friend. It won’t harm you in any way or anything.”

Jessica Vo

Jessica Vo

Jessica Vo is the Sports Director at KSBY
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