RALEIGH (WTVD) -- At 17 years old, Liana Mutia has her whole life ahead of her. Unfortunately, one of the major ways that she will process that life is simultaneously melting away. The Millbrook High School senior was already an exceptional young lady, but it's what she's doing in the face of medical hardship that puts her over the top.
"I usually can tell by the handshake how strong they are."
In that regard, Mutia is just like every other high school wrestler. The difference being that for her, the touch of the handshake is about the only pre-match gauge she's got.
"It's like having a large blind spot in the center of my vision with a lot of distortion around the edges," Mutia said.
Because of myopia and astigmatism, Mutia has been losing her sight since her sophomore year and is now legally blind. Judo's her primary sport, but she added wrestling two years ago both for the conditioning benefits and its necessary self-reliance as her vision deteriorated.
"I didn't want to be useless. I wanted to be useful to someone, somehow and if that meant getting into a spot and wrestling, then so be it." Mutia said.
Liana is 4-5 wrestling for the varsity team this year. Because of her blindness, she and her opponent begin in a touching position.
'At least I can find their shoulders and I have an opportunity to just go at it, but at the same time that means they are closer to me, and I really don't know what they are about to do when the whistle blows," Mutia said.
"She's very hard to tell that she's blind because she knows what she's doing," Chris Engel, a junior wrestler at Millbrook. "I mean the judo definitely comes out when she does the hip throws. It's rather amazing to see her wrestle because it's as if she can see again."
"She's got the most heart on the team, I can guarantee you that," Engel added.
Mutia actually could have graduated last year at age 16 - she has a 4.7 GPA, carrying exclusively AP classes this year.
Next year, it's off to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she'll train for the 2020 Paralympic Games. And oh yeah, she'll also be in pre-med at the University of Colorado.
'I'm in awe of her ability to not quit and to just continue. It's amazing when you understand that she can't see," said Chester Evans, her judo coach. "If all my students were like her, I'd be magic."
"I hope I'm just a positive influence on other people just to not stop," Mutia said. "Like if you, like no matter what you do, even if there's like say a million obstacles in your way, you should just keep on going."