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No settling for second best

Justin Cumberbatch (right) shares a laugh with his teammates during practice last Wednesday. Cumberbatch has high expectations for himself as he prepares to wrestle at 195 pounds this year after wrestling at 220 a year ago. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Alexandria’s Justin Cumberbatch has already experienced a second-place finish at the state wrestling tournament, and he wants nothing to do with another one.

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“I’m definitely hungry this year,” the junior said. “I already have a goal that I’ve been thinking about ever since the last day of the state tournament. Going home, I knew my goal next year was to be a state champ. That’s what I’m going for, and I’m not going to accept anything less.”

Cumberbatch was conflicted a year ago after coming so close to winning the 220-pound title as a sophomore. He matched up against the second-ranked wrestler in the state in Apple Valley’s Paul Cheney and gave him everything he had.

Cumberbatch held a third-period lead in the match but a late takedown for Cheney proved to be the difference. The end result was a 6-5 loss that left Cumberbatch with mixed emotions.

“I was happy and upset at the same time,” he said. “It was a good thing that I got to be up on the podium and be top two, but also it was a close match so it’s definitely something I knew I could have had. I guess you always look for positive things.”

Cumberbatch doesn’t want to have to search for positives after all is said and done this winter. His only goal is finishing on top in what will be a new weight class for him.

Cumberbatch was all-conference and made it to the state tournament the last two seasons wrestling at around 205 pounds in the 220-pound weight class. He was simply talented enough to overcome a lot of the disadvantages he faced in wrestling guys who were taller and outweighed him.

This year, he wants to be the one who has all the physical advantages to go along with his talent as he tries to cut weight and wrestle in the 195-pound class. It will take a lot of dedication. He needs to drop almost 20 pounds from the 213 pounds he is up to after growing from his sophomore to junior seasons.

“I was thinking about dropping the weight class and it’s not close as of right now,” Cumberbatch said. “I’m going to make my way down there and do the best I can and hopefully good things happen. I definitely think 220 was a bigger weight class, but 195 will be more people around my general weight and size, so hopefully it will be better.”

Better for Cumberbatch will mean trouble for almost everyone else in the state. He was already dominant for the most part last season, going 35-3 with 16 pins and 162 team points. He also never got pinned by an opponent in any of his 38 matches.

Now he comes into the season stronger and more motivated than ever with the mindset that he isn’t setting for second best.

“He’s coming back to the program leaner and in better shape than he has ever been,” head coach Tom Ellison said. “He has everything in place. He’s talented. He works hard. He’s a gifted athlete, and he understands wrestling, understands the match. He knows when he needs to push and wrestle hard and then other times where he doesn’t want to take chances. He wrestles smart.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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