updated 07/15/2014 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 07/15/2014 AT 8:00 PM ET
A father’s self-defense lessons might have saved the life of a 15-year-old boy who courageously fought off a would-be kidnapper who attempted to abduct him Friday.
Hunter Gress of Donahue, Iowa, was biking home from work around 9:30 p.m. when the harrowing scene unfolded.
According to WQAD 8, police said a man driving a silver Ford van with no rear windows pulled up in front of Hunter and attempted to block his path. The man, who wore sunglasses and a baseball cap, then apparently jumped out, grabbed Hunter’s arm and attempted to pull him into the van.
Fortunately, the quick-thinking teen didn’t comply.
Instead, Hunter punched the man in the nose and stomach and managed to run away, returning home unnerved but otherwise fine.
“When I found him he had just got done crying, was still sweating because he had just arrived at home. He’s pretty shaken up,” his mother, Heather Gress, told the news station.
Heather credits her husband Shawn’s self-defense lessons with aiding their son in the crisis. The family began the lessons last year after a similar incident in their eastern Iowa community.
“What you don’t want them to hear is what you need them to hear, in order [for them] to fight back,” said Heather, who decided to go public with the story so the suspect has a better chance of being caught.
Heather said she urges other families to learn more about self-defense – and simply communicate with one another about any potential dangers.
“We just constantly talk about this with the kids, whether it’s harassment, school bullying, how to handle it, who to talk to,” Heather told Iowa’s NBC 13. “And if it doesn’t get solved, we are honest with our kids. [We tell them], ‘If you need to handle it, this is the way you need to handle it,’ and it came down to this.”