Ryan Cumbee followed Marmion wrestling from afar for most of the past eight seasons.
On the nights he grabbed a closer view, Cumbee might have been tempted to retreat.
The Cadets’ new coach is a former Providence assistant who saw a handful of Marmion athletes handle the Celtics in recent state tournaments. Come Febuary, Cumbee hopes to be pulling several chairs up to the action, guiding a program he’s anxious to keep among the state’s elite.
“I’m ready to step in and take this team to the top,” he said. “We’ve got some strong wrestlers back and a really promising group of newcomers. I’ve been coaching wrestling since 2003, and Marmion really caught my eye a few years back.”
Cumbee said he didn’t know the man he’ll be replacing, but realizes the scope of the lightweight wrestling shoes he’ll have to fill.
Dean Branstetter left the program earlier this summer to be closer to family, taking the reins at Attica in his native Indiana. The lone coach in Marmion history, Branstetter channeled a blend of toughness and humor to transform the Cadets from a start-up looking to fill the room in 2002-03 to a perennial powerhouse less than a decade later.
Marmion boasted five state champions in 2010-11 while advancing 10 of a possible 14 athletes to the state tournament. Last season, the Cadets produced four Class 2A place-winners, including state champions Johnny Jimenez (113 pounds) and Angelo Silvestro (138).
“We obviously appreciate everything Dean has done for this program,” Marmion athletic director Joe Chivari said. “He did a great job, got the program off the ground and had tremendous success. And on top of it, he was a very, very good teacher teaching some science classes. The kids will miss him a lot, even in the classroom.”
A former Northwestern standout in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cumbee will continue working in pharmaceutical sales. His assistant and friend, Donny Reynolds, joined Marmion’s physical education staff shortly before the school year.
Cumbee was one of Providence’s senior captains during Reynolds’ freshman year, and the fellow Frankfort residents quickly took a shine to each other.
As they worked together through the years, their collective mental-first approaches to wrestling fused together.
“I believe that you have to have that burning desire and passion to win,” Cumbee said. “The tehnical will come later. I believe that if you take two kids with equal technique, the kid who has more desire, more passion to win, will.”
Reynolds has worked with several Cadets at the Naperville-based Overtime School of Wrestling during the past several offseasons, namely returners and St. Charles residents Jimenez and George Fisher, a senior who was runner-up at 126 pounds last season.
Marmion’s incoming freshman class includes seven athletes who were nationally ranked by USA Wrestling as grade-schoolers – Dylan Duncan, A.J. Jaffe, Michael Callahan, Riley DeMoss, Trace Carello, Matt Ferraro and Lucas Warren. They’ll look to buoy Marmion in its move up to Class 3A.
Silvestro’s father, Joe, will remain as an assistant and a link to the program’s past. Otherwise, Cumbee and Co. are eager to improve upon the Cadets’ recent history.
“Change could be a bad thing or it could be a great thing. It all depends on how you take it,” Cumbee said. “These guys are taking it the right way, and they’re excited to get going.”
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.