WRESTLING: YOUTH IS SERVED
By BRANDON HURLEY
Michael Rumley’s quest for redemption wasn’t the easiest of climbs. Oh, quite the contrary.
Despite sustained success through most of his youth wrestling career, a string of obstacles threatened to derail Rumley’s dreams.
A devastating loss and a momentary health scared powered the Greene County eighth grader during his journey. After years of patience and dedication, he achieved the mark last weekend, completing a magnificent AAU season by capturing a 2020 state championship in Des Moines.
After having qualified for the AAU state tournament five times prior including a runner-up finish in 2018, Rumley didn’t even place a year ago. He frustratingly came up short at this year’s junior high tournament. The disappointments began to pile up.
Rumley was 40 seconds from the junior high state title in mid-January, leading Clarinda’s Jace Williams, 4-3 in the championship match.
Then Williams - a 2020 AAU champion as well - rolled Rumley into a pin, crushing his hopes of a double dip. The defeat – his only one of the year – proved to be quite pivotal. Rumley used it as fuel. He was close, and he could feel it. The pain was too strong to endure much longer. Opportunity wouldn’t pass the 189-pounder by a second time.
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Change was necessary.
If Rumley wanted to make the leap, he’d have to become a new wrestler. Rumley tweaked his on mat approach entering his final year of youth wrestling, and it made a world of a difference.
He installed a more aggressive style, attacking for takedowns, which often resulted in quick pins. Rumley was more of the defensive type in his previous years, trying to limit mistakes while patiently waiting for opportunities to score. Patience can often be a good thing, but in wrestling, with a limited time frame and even fewer scoring chances, Rumley needed to wake up.
The youngster turned to his parents in the time of need, knowing there was room for improvement. His old strategy was thrown to the wayside this winter in favor of an increased pace.
“We started going to tournaments and open mat and I started working on my offense,” Rumley said. “I asked my parents how they thought my wrestling was and they said I could do better. That motivated me to become more of an offensive wrestler.”
An uptick in confidence proved pivotal as well. As evidenced by his tremendous pin tally, Rumley rarely wasted time on the mat. He sprung into action quickly, taking advantage of his improved mindset. There was little time to accept doubt.
“This year, I focused more on getting everything right in my head. No butterflies and not becoming nervous,” Rumley said. “Thinking that you’re not going to beat me and I’m going to beat you.”
The style change wouldn’t exactly vault Rumley to the top. He still had to work for it and overcome another obstacle. Relief was a bit more present for a variety of reasons after Rumley won his state title, but perhaps the victory signified a moment of validation.
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In a not-so-subtle plot twist, a small case of influenza struck Rumley a week prior to the AAU district tournament. Potential disappointment and a shortened stamina stood in his way. A fork in the road, yet again.
Rumley’s health scare put him in danger of being disqualified from the tournament, which meant his state tournament hopes – and a fitting exclamation point on a spectacular season – could quite possibly come to a premature end.
Rumley persevered, shaking off the sickness and passing inspection to not only capture a district title, but setting in motion a wave of dominance. Rumley absolutely destroyed each of his state opponents, pinning three of his four foes, including a title-clinching pin just 10 seconds into the second period against Brady McDonald.
The moment was a triumphant stamp on 19-1 record, with 13 of those victories coming by way of pin fall, snagging seven individual tournament titles in eight tries. It was a jubilant cap to a historic youth career. Since 2016, Rumley has won 12 tournament titles while picking up a slew of other top tier finishes. Years of hard work, of traveling all over the state while enduring a beating during high school-level practices finally came to fruition as Rumley raised his hand in victory last weekend. The championship medal signified so much more than one win. It was a stepping stone for greater things to come.
“I wanted to be better and complete something that I hadn’t in the past,” Rumley said. “I was speechless. I was happy that everything paid off.
Rumley wasn’t the only Greene County athlete who enjoyed success at the 2020 Iowa AAU state tournament. Five other Rams qualified, led by Brent Dennhardt, who placed third at 100 pounds. He won his third place match by a 5-3 decision over Koy Davidson, finishing the year at 19-8 overall. Both Gavin Scheuermann (135 pounds), fresh off a district title a few weeks prior, and Kolby Angell (75) won their first round matches while Scheuermann won a pair of consolation matches but ultimately did not place. Gavyn Winters (75) received a first round bye but was later pinned by Aiden Smith. He bounced back to win a pair of consolation matches by major decision, before getting knocked out in the consolation quarterfinals. Jackson Turner (130) was the only local youth to not place at the AAU state tourney.
Rumley may be the superstar of the group, but his teammates sure won’t hesitate to pick up the slack.