‘Why not’; Pattonville high school student has record for largest afro
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - For Tyler Wright, “why not?” started a long, long time ago.
“I remember being in third grade,” Wright said. “I’m looking through some old family scrapbooks, and I see this picture of my dad. He was about 12, and he had this incredible afro! It was wild. I guess that was pretty common during his day, but I thought it looked cool. My dad is my role model, and I always wanted to look like him, so I said ‘why not?’ And once I started, I wasn’t going to stop.”
By fifth grade, Wright’s afro had eclipsed his fathers. By the time he hit Pattonville Heights Middle School, the hair follicles had not been touched in over five years. He was the most recognizable student in school. And then he stumbled across a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records in the school library. There was a picture of a female with the world’s largest afro. “But there was no male,” Wright laughed. “So I said, why not?”
Wright took some pictures, contacted Guinness, and waited. His hair was 10 inches high, 9 inches wide, and 5 feet, 10 inches in circumference. Guinness called, and Wright was being flown to New York to be honored.
“One problem,” Wright said. “My hair was going absolutely wild crazy that day. It was beyond control. My mom was there spraying it down with something called ‘Big Sexy Hair.’ It got us through the photo shoot. Barely.”
To say the hair defines the young man misses the point about Tyler Wright. Consider the first time he went to shoot some bow and arrows.
“We’d go about once a year,” Wright said. “I really liked it, and I just wanted to get better. Well, that became a challenge, and I just said ‘why not?’ I knew it wouldn’t be be easy. But I also knew I was pretty good.”
“There is a 12 step process to move up to master level. In my first attempt, I went from step one to step 5. They kept telling me that’s not what people do, and that just motivated me more.”
As the steps got harder, the different types of archery also became more difficult. Wright chose the most difficult path, barebow, a form of archery with no sights, no stabilizer, no clicker, and no markings on the bow. It was the rawest form of archery.
“I figured if I was going for it, I might as well go for it all the way,” Wright said.
Tyler Wright is now the Missouri State barebow champion. He also holds the state’s all time records.
Wright remembers going to his first Cub scout pack meeting in first grade. “I remember thinking it was a one day thing,” Wright laughed. “It wound up being a life passion.”
10 years later, Wright earned 24 merit badges and is now an Eagle Scout.
When he heard that John Calvin Presbyterian Church was being sold, Wright embarked on an outside beautification project to enhance the church’s value.
“That was my name on that,” Wright said. “I wanted it to be nice.”
What’s next for Wright? “No limits,” he said. “I’m going to keep reaching.”
His next reach is Johns Hopkins University, one the of the top medical schools in the world. Of course, there are many medical roads to pursue, so Wright chose one of the most difficult: genetics.
Wright’s accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed at Pattonville High. Bob Thompson is the associate principal.
“His leadership skills, for someone that age, are really remarkable. It’s almost like he embraces internal pressure. Students and staff look up to him. It will be a long time before people around here forget Tyler Wright.”
Patrick Handrahan is a school counselor. “It’s funny,” he said. “But I first heard about him before he arrived because of his hair. You think he’s this loud and wild kid. Exactly the opposite. He’s really quiet and humble, but he’s confident. I consider myself lucky to work with students like that. He’s special.”
After the Guinness shoot, and the experience with “Big Sexy Hair,” Wright knew the hair had run its course, and the time had come to say goodbye.
“I cut it off. No regrets,” Wright said. But then, something funny happened. “Nobody recognized me! People still come up to me at school and say ‘hey weren’t you that guy back in middle school with the hair?’ People still give me a double take all the time.”
I asked Wright if there was any chance the ‘fro might make a comeback someday?
Officially, because he cut his hair, Wright no loner holds the Guinness crown. But no one has come forward to beat his record.
And what if somebody else does come along?
Now there was a long pause. Wright’s wheels were spinning.
“Whoa. That’s a different story. If somebody else beats my record...”
Well, why not?
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