FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --A well-known Fresno City College wrestler who led the team to a state championship five years ago has died in a tragic accident.
Matt Hickman was heading back to his home in Southern California after the High School Championships Saturday in Bakersfield. CHP officers say he was involved in a crash on Interstate-5 near Pyramid Lake. He died when he was hit by another car while running across the freeway.
Hickman's team picture remains on the wall in the Fresno City College wrestling room. And the coach that recruited him to Fresno City College remembers a funny story about the sport Hickman couldn't do when he arrived in the Central Valley.
"I remember Matty when he came he couldn't swim. He's from Camarillo, he lived by the ocean. He had a Speedo on and he couldn't swim. I said Matty how is that possible? But, after he was here for a couple years he learned how to swim. Just things like that that comes to me. He's such a good kid."
Keysaw coached Hickman for three years at Fresno City College. The team earned a state championship in 2012 and teammates forged lifelong friendships during their victorious season.
Alonzo Ruiz was on that championship team and said the qualities his friend had set him apart from everyone else.
"He was just a goofball, but he could flip the switch like quick and he would just be like the most competitive guy you've ever met."
Saturday, Ruiz arranged to meet Hickman at the CIF State Finals in Bakersfield. They were once again watching wrestling and giving play-by-play of matches-- in between they tailgated in the parking lot. A picture was taken of Ruiz, another friend, and Hickman hours before the tragedy.
"I'm just happy that I had the chance to be with him on that last day, even if it was only for a few hours," said Ruiz.
Ruiz and Coach Keysaw heard about what happened Sunday afternoon. The news was incredibly difficult to accept, in part because of who Hickman was in life.
"Everyone loved Matty. He had a huge heart. You know, he was a tough sucker but he had a heart and he loved everybody and he helped people," said Keysaw.
Hickman was the first in his family to graduate from college and recently earned his degree from Cal Baptist University. It was a big deal to his coaches and parents, and perhaps his biggest accomplishment.
The Fresno City College wrestling team is dedicating the next season in honor of Hickman, and they are hoping to bring home another state championship in his honor.