Former East wrestler, Marine recovering from accident in San Diego

Former Columbus East wrestler Aaron Cepeda is recovering in a San Diego hospital a little more than a week after a car accident that has left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The 2020 East graduate has been stationed with the Marines. His mother Jennifer, an English teacher at Central Middle School, flew to San Diego to visit him, and Aaron had the accident on his way to pick up his mom at the airport.

Jennifer said in a Facebook post that Aaron’s spine was severed. He underwent a four-hour surgery to repair his spine, and 10 permanent pins were placed.

On Saturday afternoon, Aaron was transferred to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

“This is a good thing they tell me,” Jennifer wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. “It means he is no longer a trauma patient, and his risk of succumbing to his injuries are much slimmer now. His back is still broken, his spine is still severed, so he can’t feel his legs, but he did smile for the first time today.”

The Cepedas moved to Columbus from Speedway prior to Aaron’s sophomore year.

Aaron, who also was in the band at East, wrestled mostly junior varsity as a sophomore and senior, but was on varsity as a junior and was a regional qualifier at 195 pounds in 2019.

East coach Chris Cooper was sad to learn of Aaron’s accident.

“You never want to hear that news, whether you know the person or not,” Cooper said. “But we spent a lot of time together. We travel a lot as a team and take trips, and he was a part of our team for several years. You want to see your kids succeed, and when you hear news like that, it’s always tough. I think he was doing really well with (the Marines) and enjoyed what he was doing.”

Chasidy Kannianen, a friend and coworker of Jennifer, is coordinating fundraising efforts to be used for Aaron’s care. Her venmo is @ckannianen

Jakob Hollander, a friend of Aaron, also has set up a GoFundMe account at

“Aaron Cepeda is an amazing marine and my best friend,” Hollander said on the GoFundMe page. “This fundraiser will go to his mother for when he is out of the hospital so he can acquire anything he needs to help for a speedy recovery. I’ve known this man for a while now and he is a caring, funny, honest individual.”