Nick Snyder l Junior

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Anyone's guess is as good as his, Nick Snyder said.

The 17-year-old junior still has no idea what possessed 16-year-old Alex Hribal to stab and slash at his classmates with two knives in the hallway of the school Wednesday morning, leaving Nick with a stab wound to his chest.

Like many students, Nick, one of 22 people injured by the blades, did not know Alex and didn't realize he'd been hit until the blood started flowing. He was released from the hospital Friday and is expected to be fully healed in about three weeks, he said.

As far as what comes next, Nick said during a break from trout fishing Saturday that he plans to lean heavily on family, friends, coaches and teammates from his rugby and swim teams in the days and weeks ahead to keep his mind occupied and focused elsewhere as he comes to grips with his brush with death at his own school.

"It's very surprising. You see it for other schools and you never think 'My school.' But it happened," Nick said. "I think I should be fine. Just having support from my close friends and family and ... looking at the positive things and not really relating back to it."

On the rugby pitch, Nick's teammates said he is always first to the fray. His coach described the first-year player as a quick study, a driven athlete and "a very tough kid."

Then again, that could also be gleaned from a Thursday morning Tweet: "I may have been stabbed in the chest but I'm still going fishing on Saturday."

Nick is also a member of the school's swim team and recently was part of a relay squad that placed at the WPIAL championships at the University of Pittsburgh and qualified for the state meet.

"Nick is the type of player every coach wants," said Seth Erwin, the coach of the Kiski Valley Titans rugby club. "He is driven to be the best and has great work ethic."

Mr. Erwin said that was evident when Nick returned to the team full time after taking a break for the swimming season at Franklin Regional. Nick, who said he wants to swim competitively in college and is looking at Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Miami University of Ohio, was part of the Franklin Regional 200-yard freestyle relay team that placed fourth at the WPIAL championships last month. That qualified the team for the PIAA championships at Bucknell, where they placed 18th in the preliminaries of the same event.

"His character is great," Mr. Erwin said. "When he came to rugby after swimming, I joked with him and said 'only 18th at states?' But Nick being a competitor, he wasn't satisfied. He promised to do better next year."

It didn't take Nick long to make the transition to rugby. He was introduced to the sport in August, and he had to miss some practices because of swimming. But that did not prevent him from earning a starting position as a second row in the team's two most recent matches.

"He's great," said Titans team captain J.P. Larko. "He's always supporting his teammates. You can tell he's a guy who would do anything for you."

Mr. Larko and several members of the rugby team went to visit Nick in the hospital Wednesday night, only hours after he was injured. Nick posted photographs of the visit on his Twitter account.

"He appreciated it," said Ryan Hall, a rugby teammate and friend of Nick's. "We were just there to make sure he was OK. He didn't want to talk too much about what happened to him. We always stick together no matter what. We'll be there for him, and we know he'll be there for us if we ever need it."

Mr. Erwin said he will save a place on the pitch for Nick if he wants to return to the team this season.

"The nature of rugby is it's a physical sport that bonds you with your teammates," Mr. Erwin said. "The phrase everyone was using was 'I hope my brother is OK.' It was truly a family atmosphere. Knowing Nick is OK and on the road to recovery is the best news we could have received. We surely will miss him on the pitch playing, but he'll be there with us on the sideline."

Nick said the outpouring of emotion and support from familiar faces has been comforting, but what has come from outside his circle of friends and family caught him off guard.

"It just shows how much it can bring a community together like it has," he said. "People I've never even really talked to before in my life have reached out and been supportive."


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909. Twitter: @rczullo.

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