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Jake Mumper is grateful for the opportunity to wrestle at Roger Bacon

Posted at 10:59 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 18:17:04-04

ST. BERNARD, Ohio — Roger Bacon senior Jake Mumper still visualizes competing on a wrestling mat at the Schottenstein Center.

"An arena like that," Mumper said. "There's just got to be nothing like it, I would imagine."

The 17-year-old is slowly coming to peace with the fact that the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the state individual wrestling tournament due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Time has eased the disappointment for Mumper, a Division III state qualifier (152 pounds) who earned 44 wins this winter. He was ecstatic at qualifying for state for the first time in his career; he started to wrestle in the first grade.

"That was supposed to be the culmination of 10 years of effort and work," he said. "But the thing for me is I've just got to focus on the 10 years leading up to it, which were great. I got so much out of it. I wouldn't trade it for the world."

With schools across Ohio closed through May 1, Mumper is grappling with additional uncertainty this month.

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Mumper, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, is tied for valedictorian honors with girls basketball standout Kelly Brenner. He simply wants a final opportunity this spring to see his friends and classmates and participate in the graduation ceremony at Roger Bacon.

"I've thought about the idea of just getting up there and addressing my class, which would've been pretty cool, but it's not looking like that is going to be a possibility maybe," Mumper said. "I don't know."

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Roger Bacon senior Jake Mumper had 65 career pins which is third all-time in the Spartans program.

All he can control is his routine during the stay-at-home order.

Mumper wakes up at 8 a.m. each weekday and prepares for Advanced Placement literature, engineering, AP calculus, economics, AP psychology, biology and theology.

"I think the biggest thing for me is to try to stay positive," Mumper said. "Especially for seniors this is obviously not what we want. We want to spend the last couple of months of our high school careers with our classmates having fun, being with our teachers. Just look on the bright side; it's been a great four years."

Mumper had a 101-20 career record, including being fourth all time in wins in program history and second in career win percentage, according to assistant athletic director Brandon Spaeth.

"The work that he put in was amazing," Roger Bacon head coach Jimmy Spears said.

Mumper's 44 wins and 31 pins are also school single-season records. He had 31 consecutive wins to start this past season.

"Jake is probably one of the better wrestlers in the last decade here at Roger Bacon," Roger Bacon athletic director Steve Rossi said. "Just a quiet and unassuming kid. But with everything that he's accomplished in wrestling, he was also an all-league football player. He's either 1 or 1A as far as the class rank goes. So you don't achieve all those things without being a focused individual, and that's exactly what Jake is."

That's what made Rossi's job so difficult March 12 -- the day before the state individual wrestling tournament. Rossi introduced Mumper to cheering classmates during lunch as sort of a tournament send-off.

"Roger Bacon is just an excellent place to be," Mumper said. "You are surrounded by great people in the students, staff, alumni and coaches. It's a very tight-knit community. Everybody cares about everybody else."

Two bells later, Rossi informed Mumper of the tournament postponement during biology class. Mumper thought Rossi was joking.

"I was heartbroken," Mumper said.

Mumper's family pulled him out of school at 1 p.m. The news was overwhelming.

"I think we both sat down and cried, and I gave him a big, giant hug," said Roger Bacon assistant wrestling coach Jeff Mumper, who is Jake's father.

Nothing could prepare father and son for that surreal moment.

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Roger Bacon senior Jake Mumper shared an emotional moment with his father, Roger Bacon assistant coach Jeff Mumper (background, left) when he qualified in early March at Troy for the state tournament.

There were tears of joy a week earlier when Jake qualified for state at the district tournament at Troy. It was a moment father and son will cherish forever. They've since watched the replay of that match several times.

Few knew the journey Jake had experienced this past winter. He started cutting out carbs and sugars in mid-October; he was determined after an injury limited him his junior season.

Then in early February this year, he suffered a muscular neck injury. He competed with significant pain for most of the remainder of the season. He underwent physical therapy three times a week.

"We kind of learned this sport together," Jeff Mumper said. "It has been a very great bonding thing for us. And to have it come to an end -- it was very emotional."

There was no script on how families approached the abrupt ending to the now-canceled winter sports tournaments. Yet, the Mumper family has understood the bigger picture.

"At first it was really hard to come to grips with, but since then it's been really easy to put into perspective," Jeff Mumper said. "You see thousands and thousands of people suffering from this coronavirus and people dying all over the world. It's really easy at this point to put a wrestling match into perspective. Yes, of course, years from now he's still going to regret this, but now I think he totally appreciates how lucky he is to have the experience that he had and that we are healthy. And that there are a lot of people in this world who have a lot more things to worry about than not being able to wrestle in Columbus."

Jake is grateful for his family's support. He also has learned a life lesson.

"Obviously the state tournament -- you never think that something that big is going to be canceled but nothing is guaranteed," he said. "Make the most of right now. Make the most of what you have and what you got. That's probably the biggest thing from this whole experience for me."