The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 26, 2014

Cumberledge building a rep

Geneva youngster doesn’t have to talk the talk — he walks the walk

For the Star Beacon

— As David Cumberledge was waiting for a match to begin at the Ohio Athletic Committee Junior High State Championships, his father overheard a conversation about him taking place between two coaches. It only served to make him smile.

“Just before he won in Round 4, he was getting ready to wrestle and we were standing behind Jeff Jordan of St. Paris Graham and two other coaches,” Jack Dubsky said. “They were reading the board and one of them asked who the little kid from Ashtabula, Ohio was. The other coach said, ‘He’s a little (expletive) badass. If we get him, you better be ready because he’s going to be tough.’

“David and I just looked at each other and smiled. It’s the little stuff like that that motivates you to keep going.”

Cumberledge, a 12-year-old 6th grader at Geneva Middle School, has earned that reputation by doing things like finishing 5th at the OAC Junior High State Championships at 126 pounds then going on to win the OAC State Grade School State Championships the next week at 130.

“When I went in, nobody expected me to win a match,” Cumberledge, the son of Jack and Jodi Dubsky, said. “I beat some really tough kids. I’m really proud of myself. I just went in (to the OAC Jr. High Tournament) to see what the competition was like for next year. Coming out 5th and losing to the state champion by 1 point made me really happy. I thanked God, my dad, my coaches and all of my drill partners for getting me that far.

“(Winning the OAC Grade School Tournament) was pretty satisfying. I pinned my kid in the finals. That was pretty amazing.”

In a way, finishing 5th at the junior high tournament made winning the grade-school title mean a little less.

“Nobody believed in me (at the junior high event),” Cumberledge said. “I wanted to go in and prove them all wrong. I wanted to tell them I could do it and that I would do it.

“I thought if I won just one match, it was better than anybody expected. After I lost in the semifinal (by a single point to the eventual state champ), I walked off the mat with a smile on my face. I was proud of myself. I did the best I could and left it all on the mat. I don’t have any regrets.”

At the grade-school event, Cumberledge pinned his first opponent in 16 seconds. He followed it up with a 14-second pin. In the third round, he had a pin in 1:06 before winning, 10-3, in the semifinal. He pinned Anthony D’Alesio of Canfield in 2:33 for the title.

“I had faced the kid in the finals at districts and pinned him then, too,” Cumberledge said. “I knew he’d be better and it was going to be tough.”

It helped for Cumberledge to have had that 10-3 decision in the semifinals.

“Going in, I hoped it wouldn’t be a pin, that the kid would give me good competition and I’d have to work for the win.

“The kid in the final wrestled the same style and they were from the same team. I was able to hit the low single against him and he couldn’t defend it. I kept hitting it, then in the final, he couldn’t defend it either. I kept taking him down, and because I couldn’t turn him, I kept kicking him out. That was my strategy.”

In the end, the pin resulted from that strategy.

“I kicked him out and he stood up,” Cumberledge said. “I shot on him, but he defended the shot. His arm stuck out and I threw him, kind of like an arm spin. I put him on his back and pinned him.”

In the 48-man bracket at the junior high event, Cumberledge won, 16-0, in the first round, pinned his second opponent in 1:49, scored an 8-6 decision then advanced to the semifinal with a 3-0 win. He fell, 5-4, in the semi, then fell again, 9-2, in the consolation semifinals. He rebounded for an 8-1 victory to claim 5th place.

The experience left Cumberledge with lofty goals to reach in the next two years and beyond.

“Next year and in 8th grade, I’m going to go in and try to win it twice,” he said. “I hope in high school, that will give me a lot of confidence and I can go in and win four state championships.”

But the experience also left Cumberledge, who is 78-7 on the year, with a bit of knowledge.

“It let me know I wasn’t the best,” he said. “There’s still work to do. I’m not the best, but I’m going to train to be the best.

“I will work to be the best.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.