“I called out to Brady to make sure he was alright, and I think the bear heard me.”

Those who partake in many full-impact sports, such as American football and rugby and wrestling, embody some sort of bravery.

And this time was no different as Kendell Cummings, a sophomore NJCCA college wrestler who stepped up and heroically fought off a grizzly bear who tried to maul his friend to death.

An Outdoor Excursion with Friends Gone Wrong

In October 2022, Cummings — alongside his pals Brady Lowry, Gus Harrison, and Orrin Jackson — trekked into the Wyoming wilderness to shed hunt, which is the process of looking for shed antlers from elk, moose, and mule deer. 

Besides being a cool and interesting way to enjoy what the woodland area has to offer, it can also earn a college student hundreds of dollars from the antlers they spot.

In the later afternoon, while at the Bobcat-Houlihan Trail, a hiking park near Cody, Wyoming, which also happens to sit on the outskirts of Yellowstone, the group decided to break apart into pairs to explore more of the trail’s grounds and eventually reunite together on a massive rock at the top of a hill afterward.

A Terrifying Encounter with a Massive Grizzly Bear

In a report from Ryan Hockensmith of ESPN, Lowry warned Cummings not to step in this fresh pile of bear droppings. 

However, the expedition turned horrific in the blink of an eye afterwhat was presumably a female grizzly bear struck Lowry in the chest.

The 300-lb bear began attacking Lowry and throwing him around.

As per ESPN, the angry bear “swatted” and “dribbled” Lowry around like a basketball into the shrubbery.

How Cummings Sprung into Action During a Dangerous Situation

Cummings was determined not to let the bear continue its assault on his friend any longer.

At first, he attempted throwing sticks and stones and even yelling at the animal to scare it away. But none of that worked.

Cummings got another idea — albeit a courageous and fearless one.

He decided that he would jump on the bear’s back to distract her after she pinned Lowry against a tree.

Soon after, Kendell made as fast of a run as he possibly could. Grizzly bears can run extremely fast on land at more than 30 miles per hour. 

As a result, the bear managed to leap on Cummings at full speed, knocking him to the ground immediately.

Gripped in the bear’s jaws, the bear eventually left him alone. Cummings’ own thoughts weren’t even on the injuries he had just received.  He was more concerned if the bear would attack his friend Lowry again.

“I called out to Brady to make sure he was alright, and I think the bear heard me,” Cummings told the Cowboy State Daily.

And after standing up to look for Lowry, the unthinkable happened— the bear came and attacked him again.

Many hunters and other wilderness experts note that the best way to survive a bear attack is to play dead.

Fortunately, Kendall did exactly that, which rescued him.

The bear did end up leaving Cummings alone, and he lay still for a few minutes after in the hopes of preventing a third attack.

Once the coast was clear and the grizzly was out of the picture, Cummings got up to rejoin his friend Lowry.  Visibly bloodied and hurt from the attack, the duo headed back down the long mountain to the trail’s starting point to meet up with their two friends.

The Rescue at Bobcat-Houlihan Trail

Cummings and Lowry suffered horrific injuries, with the latter managing to escape the scene and calling the police before meeting up with their two friends, who had no clue as to what was happening. 

Cummings and Lowry were eventually taken to the hospital by helicopter to be treated.

Gus Harrison, Brady Lowry, Kendell Cummings and Orrin Jackson | Andy Austin/ ESPN

The Hospital and the Road to Recovery

Cummings was taken to a trauma center in Billings, Montana, where surgeons stitched and reconstructed his face and head after the bear bit him in those areas. He received 60 staples to his head and face and several lacerations to his left arm and leg.

Lowry ended up at a hospital in Powell, Wyoming, before being transported to Billings and into the same room as his friend, Cummings.

Lowry had a broken arm and lacerations to his shoulders, right leg and thigh, and his back.

Grizzly Bear History in Yellowstone

Grizzlies commonly dwell in parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. They are federally protected, and killing them, regardless if it’s justified or not, can lead to a whole slew of legal ramifications.

 If investigators feel there is reasonable doubt for the killing of a grizzly in self-defense, shooting one of the bears can get you a year in jail and a whopping $50,000 fine.

For more than 40 years, Yellowstone has had over 118 million visits. In that time, only 44 people were hurt by grizzlies in the park. 

Additionally, there is also a slim chance of 1 in 2.7 million visits that a bear would injure somebody. 

Reflecting on the Aftermath of the Attack and an Act of Bravery and Friendship 

Lowry, who hails from Cedar City, Utah, does not hesitate to share his gratitude for Cummings, citing him as the person responsible for saving his life.

“I can’t even express how grateful I am for him,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to pay him back. I owe him everything.”

In January 2023, roughly three months after the attack, Lowry competed in an NJCAA wrestling competition, with Cummings championing him.

What an incredible testament to the unbreakable bond many great friendships possess!