HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) - He was there to root on his former player, Fennville High School basketball coach Ryan Klingler, and a team -- a whole community -- to a perfect record.
"These are their boys, and then the excitement, the exhiliration of victory and then this tragedy," said former Hope College basketball coach Glenn Van Wieren, who sat behind the team's bench. "How can you be so high and the next minutes this happens? What we're asked to deal with in life is just so difficult."
In his 45 years of coaching, he's never seen before what he witnessed Thursday night -- as 16-year-old Wes Leonard fell to the gym floor.
Van Wieren watched the game from about 10 feet behind the Fennville bench. He coached Fennville basketball coach Ryan Klingler in the the 1990s. He watched as the excitement of a perfect season turned to tragedy.
As Wes Leonard was treated on the gym floor, the rest of the team gathered with their coaches in the locker room, holding hands, crying and praying, Van Wieren said.
And, the sudden death of young athletes is rare -- exceedingly so.
"It is, fortunately, a rare event, but as we saw yesterday, again, it's not completely zero risk," said Dr. Ronald Grifka, chief pediatric cardiologist at DeVos Children's Hospital.
The title of a study by the American Academy of Family Physicians , shows just how rare this is: "Sudden death in young athletes: Screening for the Needle in the Haystack."
The study found that about 7.5 of every 1 million high school and college male athletes die suddenly, that boys were 5 times more likely to die as girls, that most of these deaths happen to football and basketball players and that most were caused by congenital cardiovascular structural abnormalities -- a defect they were born with.
Grifka says the cause of Wes Leonard's death -- dilated cardiomyopathy , or an enlarged heart -- could have been genetic, or it could have been caused by recent bouts with the flu.
"The flu in December -- that could have set this up, possibly," Grifka said "It could have infected the heart and, over two months time, it got a little larger than normal and weaker than normal and that predisposes him to having a heart rhythm problem, and that heart rhythm problem could cause him to pass out and have a cardiac arrest."
Grifka says there are steps parents can take to keep their student-athletes safe. First, he said, the required routine physical.
"We take them for granted and do not pay enough attention to them, but it is important to get the physical done routinely," he said.
And, he said, to learn your family's health history.
"If there's any red flags that come up with the yearly physical examinations or the family history, that would usually prompt a referral to a pediatric cardiologist."
He says there's no reason for EKGs as part of that routine physical.
"There's been some discussion about, should we have routine screening for all athletes? As you can imagine, screening 15 million athletes every year would be quite problematic."
Visitation for Wes Leonard will be Sunday, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Fennville United Methodist Church. The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Christ Memorial Church in Holland.
GRAM Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in front of a festive downtown crowd at Rosa Parks Circle Friday night.
Two people were taken to the hospital after one vehicle crossed the center line, causing a head-on crash in Ada Township Friday night.
Police say snow is making roads "treacherous" and are urging people to stay home if possible.