Xayvion Rodgers, a 2019 Blackduck High School graduate best known around northern Minnesota as a standout on the Blackduck-Cass Lake-Bena Bears wrestling team, was critically injured in a single car accident in the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 4, near his home in Pennington.

Police notified Andrea Bilinski, Xayvion’s mother, at 7 a.m. and said that he was currently on a Life Flight to Fargo where he’s been since. The exact cause of the accident is unknown, although it appears that Rodgers may have fallen asleep at the wheel on County Road 20 northeast of Bemidji, causing his car to leave the roadway where it hit a tree, then spun around to the tree to hit it again from the other side.

The previous day, X-man, as he is known to family and friends, had worked a very long day. He had recently started a job with Northern Aggregate in Bemidji but was working in the Twin Cities running a rock crusher. Following work he drove home but stopped to eat at Pike Hole Resort where he’s been working as a cook for the past three years. Meeting up with some friends there he headed out to the Clearwater County Fair in Bagley and after spending a few hours there he drove friends home before turning toward home himself, by then having gone more than 24 hours without sleep.

Rodgers has had some difficult days at the ER in Fargo, but has made good progress in the past week.

Laurie Rieplinger, who visited on Sunday, Aug. 11, with the rest of her family, including BCLB wrestling coach Jay Reiplinger, told him, “Xayvion, the Bears are all rallying around you. I hope you can feel the love, bud. We believe in you and know you will fight like a Bear!” Andrea said that she could really feel the positive vibes.

Andrea’s hope is that by the end of this week he may be off the final and strongest medications, and then begin to find out if he is able to respond to pain tests and commands.

“They say they only get 10-15 cases like Xayvion’s a year,” Andrea said. “It is very severe, but the doctors are pleased with how his is doing.” Meanwhile, Pike Hole Resort has put out a donation jar and Laurie Reiplinger is working with the BCLB Bears and Boosters to plan a fundraiser in the near future.

“This is what I love about our community,” Andrea said, “so many people supporting us. You have no idea how much this touches my heart.”

The wrestlers and coaches who’ve worked with Xayvion since he began wrestling in first grade all talk about his dedication to the sport and his willingness to do whatever it takes to help out his team — often cutting weight to fill a vacant weight class. He finished his high school career with a couple of big seasons, thrilled to go to state with the Bears in 2018 and to earn his 50th career win in 2019. He also went to state in FFA his senior year.

While he’d rather be hunting and fishing than just about anything, he’s never too busy to help out younger kids and is proud to be a “big brother” to many. Xayvion is 18 and has sisters, Courtney and Kim, who are 20 and 21 respectively, and a 15-year old brother, Jastyn.

“He is the spitfire of the group,” Andrea says of her elder son. “He’s the first to argue about everything but he’s also the first to be there for any and all of us. He always has our backs.”

Andrew (Dewey) Nissen, former Bear and current BCLB coach, said of Xayvion, “From being his teammate to being his coach, I’ve seen him grow into a great young man and friend. I just want to say, keep fighting X.”

For Andrea, the last two weeks have been a struggle, a rollercoaster, but also a time when she has seen how much support there is for her family and how much love there is for her son. “I’ve comforted myself looking through the thousands of pictures on my phone, looking for some smiles and admiring my handsome, spitfire son. I love him. If he’s as hard-headed and stubborn as everyone has always said he is — I think that it will make a big difference.”