Max Ford knows the young boy only as "M.J.," and he doesn't know him that well.
But the Whale Branch Early College High School senior wrestler heard the 3-year-old cancer survivor's favorite superhero was Batman, and so Ford had something to show him.
During football season, Ford, an offensive lineman, wore an Under Armour shirt with a Batman logo. His teammates called him "Batman."
When wrestling season began, Ford's mother bought him the gold and purple singlet with a large Batman symbol across the chest. It's what he wore to claim his second consecutive Class 2-A/1-A heavyweight wrestling title.
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Ford had M.J. (full name Michael Williams) sign his singlet -- a reminder, perhaps, of life's real battles.
"I'm going to frame it with his name out," Ford said.
The grounded Ford is the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Wrestler of the Year after finishing 44-2 and defeating Aynor's Wyatt McCrackin in a 3-1 decision to win the state title.
Ford knew how to dissect McCrackin. He wrestled him in the Lower State final and the previous year in the Lower State semifinal.
He knew McCrackin liked to shoot and waited him out until the Aynor wrestler dropped his guard.
"He wrestled an extremely smart match," Whale Branch coach Josh Duplessis said after Ford's victory. "He came out aggressive in the first period and did exactly as we planned going into it."
In the days leading up to the S.C. High School League individual championships, Ford talked about how he lacked the same drive he had as a junior. He chalked it up to senioritis.
But once in Anderson Civic Center, the old mindset returned.
He scored a technical fall in the first round, and then won his semifinal match with a pin. Then he produced the workmanlike decision over McCrackin, who had won his first two matches with pins.
"He was proud of himself, but he acted like he had been there before," Duplessis said. "He's a very humble kid. He definitely had a big smile on his face."
Said Ford: "I just saw the opponent and did what I had to do to win."
Ford became the school's first state wrestling champion when he defeated Eric Gallman of Newberry in 2013 -- a 5-3 decision. He finished his junior season 43-7 despite wrestling with a torn labrum.
"He has more heart than any young man I've ever met in my life," said Travis Wynn, who coached Whale Branch in 2012-13.
Ford won his second state title in three years of wrestling after picking up the sport as a sophomore. And in three years, he had three coaches -- Chad Cox, Wynn and Duplessis.
His path is taking him to The Citadel, a fit for a big man always ready with "sirs" and "ma'ams" and with a family history of military service. He plans to wrestle, earn a nursing degree and eventually become a physician's assistant.
He plans to fulfill his service in the Navy. His mother served in the Air Force, and he has extended family deployed.
The Citadel made sense.
"Citadel is a great school; I can't wait to be part of something great," Ford said.
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
2014 ISLAND PACKET/BEAUFORT GAZETTE ALL-AREA WRESTLING TEAM
Coach of the Year: Nathan Day, Battery Creek
Wrestler of the Year: Max Ford, Whale Branch
Joseph Cuevas, Battery Creek
Record: 35-11; Comment: Class 2-A/1-A state runner-up, Region 6-AA champion
Omar Daniels, Battery Creek
Record: 58-14; Comment: Fourth in Class 2-A/1-A as freshman, with teammate Cooper Kaminsky became the first freshman state qualifiers for BC since 1994
Jake Sharp, Beaufort High
Record: 43-6; Comment: North-South selection, third in Class 4-A, more than 100 victories during high school
Levi Joly, Bluffton
Record: 53-8; Comment: Four-time state qualifier, all-American at senior nationals, North-South selection, 183 career wins
William Spann, Beaufort High
Record: 35-11; Comment: Region 8-AAA champion, two-time state qualifier
Matt Levy, Hilton Head High
Record: 43-11; Comment: 3-A state qualifier, undefeated in county
Brock Massey Hilton Head High
Record: 47-8; Comment: 3-A state qualifier (second time), Lower State runner-up
Talon Seitz, Bluffton
Record: 65-2; Comment: Most season wins and pins in school history, already eighth on schools wins list in two seasons, third in Class 4-A
Brian LaBean, Battery Creek
Record: 55-6; Comment: Region 6-AA champ's dramatic pin at Lower State sent Dolphins to duals championship
Porter Mahan, Battery Creek
Record: 38-20; Comment: Solid season halted by broken hand three days before Lower State
Michael Meyerink, Bluffton
Record: 56-9; Comment: North-South selection, third in Class 4-A, four-time state qualifier, third on Bluffton's wins list (163)
Malik Morgan, Battery Creek
Record: 32-4; Comment: Dual meet specialist earned a decision in Lower State final and tech fall in the state championship
Martin Duane, Hilton Head High
Record: 50-6; Comment: All-American (eighth at sophomore nationals), Class 3-A runner-up
Isaiah Sloan, Battery Creek
Record: 36-6; Comment: North-South selection, Region 6-AA champion, two-time state qualifier
Mitchell Nestler, Beaufort High
Record: 27-9; Comment: Class 4-A state qualifier, Region 8 runner-up
Cooper Kaminsky, Battery Creek
Record: 48-15; Comment: With Omar Daniels became the first BC freshman state qualifiers since 1994
Kentrell Seabrook, Beaufort High
Record: 33-3; Comment: North-South selection, second in Class 4-A, Lower State champion, Region 8-AAAA champion
Max Ford, Whale Branch
Record: 44-2; Comment: Back-to-back heavyweight champion in Class 2-1/1-A
Jonathan Wright, Battery Creek
Record: 34-14; Comment: 3rd place in Class 2-A/1-A, Region 6-AA champion