HARRISBURG - Austyn Cummings wasn't even sure he was going to wrestle this year.
After something clicked in him, he ended up winning a Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state medal, and leading a large contingent of Warren teammates - and Warren County wrestlers - at the PJW state championships this weekend at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center.
After winning at the Sub-Area 3 tournament at Warren Area High School, and finishing second at the Area 8 tourney in Corry, Cummings opened the PJW state championships with a pin in 50 seconds in the 11-and-12-year-old, 145-pound division.
Times Observer photo by Jon Sitler
Warren’s Austyn Cummings poses with his eighth-place medal he earned at the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships in Harrisburg this weekend.
That's when he knew he could earn a state medal.
Well, let's backtrack:
"Donnie (Austyn's father) and I wanted him to figure this out on his own and only wrestle if it's what he felt in his heart he wanted to do," said Austyn's mother, Chris. "His passion set in and he's worked hard with the goal of being a state qualifier.
"All his coaches have been instrumental in lighting a fire in him again," said Chris. "I think, in the end, the biggest change for him in deciding to wrestle and getting that passion back was allowing him to make the decision that it was what he wanted to do without any pressure at all from his dad or I."
Being behind from the start of the season proved to Cummings he could work through it, including working through a 1-0 decision loss in his second match in his 145-pound division with 22 of the best young wrestlers in the state.
From there, he earned his second pin of the day on Friday, and then his third win, a 4-0 decision; that meant a win on Saturday morning would guarantee him a PJW state medal, the only one for Warren County as it would turn out.
Current Warren Area High School sophomore D.J. Fehlman and current PJW teammate Jimmy Kramer - one of Austyn's best friends - earned state medals there last year.
"He really took it to heart to have his teammates stay that long to cheer for him and best buddy Jimmy Kramer, who made it to states, was right there cheering for him and by his side, too," said Chris. "Having such great teammates and friends who are there to push you, and give you advice, helped to keep fighting through the bracket after losing a heartbreaker 1-0 his second match."
Cummings admitted he was nervous about that match the next morning.
"I know Dad and Mom had trouble sleeping," said Don.
Austyn had beaten his next opponent twice before, and earned a pin in 15 seconds -he jumped up and pumped his fist.
Despite ultimately losing 3-2 with one second left in double overtime in the 7th-8th-place match, Cummings brought home a medal for eighth place (top eight earn medals). And he was reminded that former PJW state champ D.J. Fehlman's first medal was an eighth-place medal.
Warren coach Mike Rogers told an upset Cummings after that loss, "Not a bad season for us talking you into coming out for wrestling this season," he said. Cummings made sure to thank Rogers, Dick Balas and junior high coaches Dean Johnson and John Hamm, for impacting him.
As well as his family and wrestling family - his teammates.
"I've been with these kids for eight years," said Rogers. "This is the most kids we've ever had qualify (for PJW states), that I can think back in 25 or 30 years. I think it's the group of kids that we have that are pushing each other, staying together - that have been in since second or third grade."
Rogers said Warren had six kids wrestling to get into the medal matches, "and Austyn was the only boy that won... That doesn't sound good but when you take 10 kids there, and you have the opportunity to have six wrestle for medals - that's where our program is; we're right there ready to be a top echelon program."
Representing Warren were: Billy Anderson, 7&8, 110 pounds; Jacob Fankhouser, 13&14, 77 pounds; Tyler Mahood, 11&12, 75 pounds; Kramer, 11&12, 80 pounds; Nick Desimone, 13&14, 117 pounds; Derek Reagle, 13&14, 157 pounds; Stephen Crone, 13&14, 187 pounds; Gabe Irvine, 13&14, 147 pounds; Solomon Gross, 13&14, 212 pounds., and; Cummings.
A couple, Gross and Crone battled illness all weekend but gutted it out, some were multiple-time state qualifiers, including three-time qualifier Reagle, and others saw opponents who they had beaten before win state medals, so they are close.
"What I like about this is all these kids that we have have been coming up through since third and fourth grade and they all stuck together and this is what happens when you put a little hard work in, put your nose to the grindstone and support each other," said Rogers. "It was a good reward for the wrestlers, coaches and parents. This is what keeps a program alive. Hopefully we get some of those kids out for wrestling (that are inspired by what this group has done)."
Eight wrestlers won PJW matches for Warren. From Eisenhower, Gannon and Logan Jaquay won matches and joined Spencer Head at states; from Sheffield, Nicholas Knowles and Tanner Barr won matches, and; from Youngsville, Mason Benjamin qualified for states.
For results, visit pajw.org.