METHUEN — Most 12-year-olds would be intimidated by such summer plans.
For seven weeks, from June 15-Aug. 6 as a member of the prestigious Ohio All-Star wrestling team, Matt Cabezas will be thousands of miles away from his family traveling around the western part of the country and into Canada.
The sixth grade standout from Methuen will not only train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs but compete at sites from Wyoming to Nevada, California and Oregon with a trip into Vancouver as well.
It’s an ambitious schedule, training and competing with some of the premier grades 6-9 wrestlers in the country, one that can only further enhance his career.
But again, for most 12-year-olds from what’s considered provincial New England, it’s a scary proposition to be so far away from family and friends.
Cabezas, however, has shown that he’s not like most 12-year-olds. His accomplishments on the mat which include titles in 12 national tournaments — are already nearly legendary and undoubtedly been a boon to his confidence.
That’s probably why, when offered the opportunity to be a member of the Ohio All-Star team, Cabezas didn’t hesitate.
“When my Dad (Kevin) told me about it, I said yes right away,” said Cabezas. “It’s just such a big honor and I’m excited about it. Not many kids get this opportunity.”
Indeed, the Ohio All-Star team has been in existence since 1983 and has attracted numerous All-Americans and current college coaches, many of whom cite this experience as a turning point in their career.
Cabezas, who attends the Timmony School in Methuen, has already had an astounding career, with victories and titles so bountiful that his name is well known throughout New England.
Since the first grade, he’s won 12 national titles, including twice at the highly-regarded Empire Games. Three years ago, he won the Northeast Nationals in Pennsylvania and was named the Outstanding Wrestler.
His room is full of medals and trophies, so much so that his mother wants to store a big chunk of them in the attic. High school coaches have known about him for years and one prep school has already offered him a scholarship, starting next year.
A hard worker, Cabezas has been working out at the Barn in Danville for years and also trains at least once a week at Harvard University. Basically, and this is one reason why coaches love him, he can’t get enough of the sport.
“I don’t take much time off but I don’t really need it,” he said. “I think it (wrestling) is fun.”
In fact, says Kevin, wrestling is the greatest discipline motivator he has on the few occasions it’s needed.
“If Matt ever slips with his academics or doesn’t clean up his room or something like that, if I threaten to not let him wrestle, that gets him upset and will turn him around,” he said. “For him, it’s like the worst punishment he can get.”
Even with as much success as Matt has had, the competition this summer will be intense. But Gordon Smith, who has seen Matt progress over the years at the Barn, is confident that he’ll more than hold his own.
“I think he’ll do fantastic,” said Smith. “He puts in the time, he knows the moves and he’s motivated, which is so important.
“He’s been wrestling forever and he’s by far our best student. He’s a great kid and very loyal. He wears the Smitty’s Barn shirts and it’s great for us because he represents the best of what we’re trying to do. Having him wrestle all over (with the Ohio team) will be great for him and it’s like a great promotion.”
It’s also a big commitment, and Cabezas has to raise more than $4,000 on his own to pay for the opportunity. But his parents, who will surely miss him, are looking on the entire experience as a positive.
“He’ll be one of 20 kids who have won national titles, the cream of the crop, wrestling under the best coaches around, so it’s just a great experience,” said Kevin. “Plus, I think it will be great for him to be out on his own. He’ll be responsible for his own laundry, managing his money, things like that. It’s a great way for him to mature.”
In just one year Methuen sixth grader Matt Cabezas has been winning huge tournaments for the last six years. In 2012, for example, he: Placed first at the Pop & Flo Nationals in Pennsylvania Placed first at the Brute Empire Nationals in New York Placed first at the Bay State Games Captured titles at four other tournaments Donations for trip Matt Cabezas is diligently trying to raise the funds needed to cover the cost of his summer with the Ohio All-Star wrestling team, but he has decided there are higher priorities. "He was touched by what happened in Boston and would like people to donate to the victims first," said his father, Kevin. "That's more important than wrestling ... I'm really proud of him for thinking like that."