Justin Cumberbatch made the decision to move down a weight class to 195 pounds this season after losing a 6-5 decision to Apple Valley’s Paul Cheney in the Class AAA championship match in 2013.
A year later the move has paid off. Cumberbatch became the first state champion from Alexandria since Justin Walsh in 2002 with a 6-1 decision over Gable Steveson in the 195 pound Class AAA title match Saturday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“It feels great,” Cumberbatch said. “I put a lot of hard work and time into this season, and that was my one goal.”
Cumberbatch wrapped up the championship match victory by taking down Steveson in the final seconds and picking up two near-fall points.
He led 2-1 at the start of the third period thanks to an escape and an added point due to a Steveson clasp. Cumberbatch knew Steveson had to take a chance at a takedown as time was winding down and used the move to his advantage.
“He made a mistake and I caught it,” Cumberbatch said. “He’s a good wrestler, it’s just that one takedown he tried to get and I ended up turning that into my offense.”
Cumberbatch won four matches over the weekend. He started out the tournament with a 15-2 decision over Hunter Jirele of Owatonna, and then followed that up with a pin of Julius Ogunti of Park Center in the third period in the quarterfinals. A close 3-2 decision in the semifinals over Tristyn Hanson of Lakeville North put Cumberbatch into a Class AAA championship match for the second consecutive season.
Alexandria head coach Tom Ellison felt Cumberbatch wrestled stronger at the end of the tournament this season compared to last year.
“He was fresher in the final this year than he was last year, maybe because he didn’t have to wrestle some of those big guys,” Ellison said. “He was probably giving up 10, 15 pounds every time he wrestled a guy in the tournament last year, and that’s hard on you when you have to wrestle tough competition two days in a row.”
Cumberbatch also said he felt fresher at the end of the tournament this season. He said the extra work put in to stay under 195 pounds could have been a factor in his tournament run.
“I always had to cut weight, so I was always running and that helped my cardio a lot,” he said.
The 2014-2015 season looks bright for the Cardinals wrestling team with state champion Cumberbatch returning for his senior season. Ellison hopes the championship inspires the team and other wrestlers in the community to work hard on improvement.
“I think this will inspire our teammates and also the young wrestlers in Alexandria,” Ellison said. “It’s always great to know that somebody from little Alexandria can come down into the big city and take on a powerhouse like Apple Valley and get a state championship.”
OTHER CARDINAL WRESTLERS AT STATE Blake Olhausen led among other Cardinals at the state tournament by wrestling his way to a quarterfinals match at 138 pounds.
Olhausen pinned David Giadyu of Park High School to advance to the quarterfinals. There he lost to Elijah Muedeking of White Bear Lake on a last second takedown. He then lost his first wrestle back match to Austin Eichmann of Hastings in a 5-1 overtime decision.
Mike Schluter was the only other Cardinal who wrestled multiple matches in the tournament. He was pinned in his opening round match at 182 pounds and was later eliminated in his first wrestle back match in a close 6-4 decision to Collin Sohn of Wayzata.
Dylan Kriese, Dustin Neu and Trent Piepenburg all lost opening round matches and were eliminated from the tournament after their opponents lost in the quarterfinals.
Ellison said it was tough to see Alexandria senior Trent Piepenburg’s season end after only one match at the state tournament.
“That was very unfortunate for a senior like that,” Ellison said. “It’s tough to see him have his season end and career end.”
MATCH RESULTS ALEXANDRIA – 120 – Brenden Buryska (OWATONNA) decision over Dylan Kriese, 2-1;
132 – Jarod Julkowski (COON RAPIDS) decision over Trent Piepenburg, 5-1
138 – Blake Olhausen (ALEXANDRIA) pinned David Giadyu, 5:39; Elijah Muedeking (WHITE BEAR LAKE) decision over Olhausen, 3-1; Austin Eichmann (HASTINGS) overtime decision over Olhausen, 5-1
152 – John Byers (MOUND WESTONKA) decision over Dustin Neu, 5-1
182 – TJ Ohara (TARTAN) pinned Mike Schluter, 3:40; Collin Sohn (WAYZATA) decision over Schluter, 6-4
195 – Justin Cumberbatch (ALEXANDRIA) major decision over Hunter Jirele, 15-2; Cumberbatch (A) pinned Julius Ogunti, 5:23; Cumberbatch (A) decision over Tristyn Hanson, 3-2; Cumberbatch (A) decision over Gable Steveson, 6-1