ELHS Freshman Wrestler Loses at States, but Never Gives Up

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019, 7:15 am
Alexander Hosey

Above: Emilio Cabrera with coaches Trayvon Speed (l) and Tom Woodward (r). Photos courtesy of Pablo Cabrera.

Emilio Cabrera is one to watch. The East Lansing High School freshman wrestler made it to the MHSAA wrestling individual state finals in the 119-pound weight class after having placed fourth at regionals.

Cabrera finished the season with a 27-12 record after losing to eventual state champion Vincent Perez of Tecumseh, who was unbeaten (53-0) in his senior year. While Cabrera's season ended in disappointment, the determined and hardworking freshman knows that losses, along with wins, are part of the process of growing as an athlete.

Cabrera has been working on his craft since he can remember— wrestling has become a family passion and it’s among Cabrera’s earliest memories.

“Well, my dad had done it in high school, so he wanted me to try it out at the age of four or five,” Cabrera told ELi. “I don't remember, but when I went to a couple of tournaments, I won my matches and took firsts to make it to states,” he continued. “So then I just kept doing the sport because I thought I was good at it.”

Also a member of the ELHS freshman football team this year, Cabrera is always doing something to improve himself, but wrestling is special to him. Football is a team sport, but the individuality of wrestling forces him to dig deep and focus.

“Yeah, I play football but I like wrestling more because when it comes to wrestling on the mat, it's all about you,” he said.

“Being on the mat with people in the stands kind of [makes me] nervous, but I’ve been wrestling for 10 years so being on the mat, all I think about is what are my moves, what I'm going to be doing and not worrying about people watching.”

Cabrera is focused on being his best every time he steps onto the mat.

“I would have to say that he never just goes through the motions,” said East Lansing wrestling coach Tom Woodward.

“He works very hard when he trains and he doesn't take many breaks to chit-chat. And if you want to spar with him, you’d better be ready to have a match almost.”

“He’s a quiet kid. A very hard worker,” East Lansing football assistant coach Rufus Jackson said. “Probably one of the toughest kids mentally and physically in the class of 2022. He’s a worker, and he’s tough as nails.”

Not only do the adults around Cabrera praise his work ethic, his peers do as well.

“His work ethic is beyond comparable when you watch him in practice.” says wrestling teammate T'Senre Gray, an ELHS junior. “He’s the hardest worker and toughest lightweight competitor you would see in the room. Working his moves, working the drills, putting his one hundred and ten percent on the floor to get better. He’s tough.”

With three more years of high school wrestling ahead, expectations are high for Cabrera. His talent and work ethic should bring him success, but he may have additional options when his days at East Lansing are done.

“I expect greatness out of him in the future,” Coach Woodward said of Cabrera. “A college scholarship and him competing to go to states every year. He has potential and dedication.”


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