‘Listen to your children’: Heartbroken mom shares message at tournament in honor of teen son who took his own life

Clay County charity wrestling tournament raises money for youth mental health & suicide prevention

A grieving mother has a warning to other parents after her teenage son took his own life. News4JAX reporter Aaron Farrar explains the one thing she wants people to remember and shows us how a community stepped up to honor a life gone too soon.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – The grieving mother of a local school wrestler gave an emotional, heartfelt speech Saturday during a charity wrestling tournament organized to honor his life.

Ryder Pimienta was just 15 years old when he took his own life, shocking those who thought they knew him best.

“Ryder passing away, taking his life, totally threw us off. It was unexpected. He showed no signs or anything,” his mother, Christine Pimienta, said Saturday.

Ryder Pimienta (Photo provided)

She had a warning for other parents.

“You really need to listen to your children,” she said. “You need to pay attention to them. Sometimes they do things that you don’t realize. They are reaching out.”

Christine Pimienta said her son was passionate about wrestling and had a talent for it.

“It was something he was good at. He knew he was good at it, but he would also help other people,” she said.

At just 15 years old, Ryder’s wrestling resume was impressive. He clinched a North Florida championship as an eighth grader and followed that up with district and region runner-up spots as a freshman in high school.

Ryder also qualified for the state’s wrestling championship tournament for Orange Park High School as a freshman.

But on July 10, 2021, the summer after his freshman year, Ryder died by suicide.

More than 250 wrestlers from high schoolers to kindergartners hit the mats in a charity wrestling tournament Saturday in Clay County. (WJXT)

To honor his memory, wrestlers from near and far came to the Clay County Fairgrounds on Saturday for a tournament. Yes, there were winners, but all money raised is going to youth mental health and suicide prevention programs.

More than 250 wrestlers from high schoolers to kindergartners hit the mats. Among them was Ryder’s best friend and first wrestling partner -- Christian Wilson -- who flew in all the way from California for the tournament.

“Ryder was one of the best friends ever had. He was one of the realest. I love Ryder and I love the family that he has. I feel like I was a brother to him,” Wilson said.

Christine Pimienta said off the mat, Ryder had an infectious personality.

“He was just a bright light. I know he is here, but I wish he was here physically,” she said. “My son had an impact on people’s lives.”

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Pimienta said she was touched by the community support for their efforts to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention and mental health. She said she does not want any other parent to experience the pain she is dealing with.

For those who want to donate to their efforts, you can contribute via Venmo to @Ryder-P-Memorial or scan the QR code below:

Ryder Memorial Tournament Venmo (Provided by tournament)

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About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.