Winter sports are front and center in the Gutshall household.

Nate is the head wrestling coach at Big Spring High School, daughter Molly is set to play basketball, and Kate is a swimmer.

Sometimes that makes it hard in the household for mom, Carrie, who is a looping teacher at Bermudian Springs — she taught kindergarten last year and now teaches the same kids in first grade — and has 5-year-old Jack to take care of.

But Nate and Carrie make it work. And, for the most part, they make it look easy.

"Going into the season, I just accept it for what it is and I know that it’s coming," Carrie said. "Sometimes it’s hard knowing that he is not going to be there as much or that I’m doing more at home opposed to outside of the season, but it’s just one of those things that I accept because I know how much wrestling means to him, and I know how much those kids mean to him."

A chance encounter

The Gutshalls have been married almost 21 years and together for 23.

Both are graduates of Big Spring, but they didn’t interact much growing up. Carrie, who is two years younger, knew of Nat as a wrestler, football player and a student who battled Hodgkin's Lymphoma his senior year. But that was it.

It wasn't until she vacationed with a friend one summer that she had a chance meeting with Nate and his family at Knoebels Amusement Park, in Elysburg.

The rest, you could say, is history.

"I knew of him, and I knew that he was a wrestler and that he was a football player," Carrie said. "But, I was two years younger than him, so we didn’t really hang out together. Then when I was vacationing with a friend and [Nate’s] family happened to be there at Knoebels, and that’s where we really started to hang out."

Building support

Carrie has done her best to be a solid support system for Nate and the rest of the family when wrestling season begins

Thankfully, the wrestling community has become a family in its own right for the Gutshalls, and particularly their son, Jack.

"The wrestling organization is great at understanding that we are a family, and sometimes I will drop Jack off at practice and he will be there for a half an hour while I drop off another kid at practice," Carrie said. "And the wrestlers wrestle around with Jack, who is 5, and they have a great time with him."

That community also brings to light a side of Nate that Carrie loves — a side that gives back. And even though it gets hard watching him spend so much time with the sport, they know it's all worth it in the end.

"When it does get hard and it gets frustrating for me, I reflect on how much Nate loves those wrestlers and how much they mean to him," Carrie said. "And I know that, while sometimes I get selfish and I want that time for our family, I know that it’s worth sharing him for that because he’s doing great things outside of our family."

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"For me, our Sunday’s and getting the family to church is good because it gets the whole group together, and it brings us together for family time," Nate said. "That often rejuvenates me during the season."

Always there

Big Spring and Bermudian Springs high schools are separated by nearly 25 miles, almost 40 minutes apart.

Despite the distance, the Gutshalls are able to find ways to support one another’s teaching careers. Nate will go to Halloween parties at Bermudian or watch a talent show put on by the school.

That also means getting in a wrestling match or two during the season.

"We wrestle Bermudian every year, and a couple years ago we had a heated match and I lost a team point during the match," Nate said. "When I came home she was like, ‘What did you do?’ She knew already because some of the Bermudian people had texted her that her husband was crazy."

The anecdote makes both of them laugh in hindsight.

"I know that wrestling is competitive, and I know that Nate is passionate about what he does," Carrie said. "Sometimes he gets a little too passionate, but for the most part it’s not an issue. He’s good at keeping it under wraps."

Medical scare

The Gutshalls were thrown a curveball this summer — Nate needed open heart surgery June 3.

In the months preceding the operation, Carrie’s mind was stretched in more directions than usual.

"It was a lot — it was a lot to take in, and it was a lot to process," she said. "I had to figure out how I was going to navigate it as the spouse and the primary caretaker, but also how to navigate it as mom. It all came about at the end of my school year, as well, and my students deserved an awesome end of the school year as they would if everything was going 100% normal for me at home. Those were the things that I focused on, and I honestly didn’t allow myself to feel a lot of emotions until pretty much it was the night before surgery.”

The surgery was successful, and while Nate is still recovering, he will once again teach government and coach in the upcoming months. Carrie isn’t worried about his workload after he received a “great” prognosis.

"Everything is going really well," Nate said. "We’re right where we need to be right now. The tough part is the mental aspect. It’s mentally draining to be tired and not be yourself."

More than 20 years of marriage helped the couple get through arguably their biggest medical scare together.

"He’s one of the toughest men I know — mentally and physically he’s been through a lot," Carrie said.

"He’s my best friend. I love that he’s a great dad and sometimes that makes me a little jealous — but that’s good. He’s a great dad, and I couldn’t be more proud of him."

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​Email Mallory at mmerda@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @MalloryMerda