Long Beach wrestler Dunia Sibomana wrestling against Kai Plinski of...

Long Beach wrestler Dunia Sibomana wrestling against Kai Plinski of WV during his 8th match while at the 33rd Annual High School Nationals at the Virginia Beach Sports Center Virginia Beach, VA Sunday March 27, 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Dunia Sibomana has been riding a wave of momentum all season.

Nassau Division I champion? Check.

State champion? Check.

The eighth-grade wrestling phenom from Long Beach looked to complete the trifecta on Sunday at the National High School Coaches Association championships at the Virginia Beach Sports Center.

While Sibomana didn’t win the event, he did battle back to take third place, defeating Kai Plinski of West Virginia, 5-0, in the third-place match. He won six straight consolation matches in a little over three hours and finished the day 7-1.

“I feel proud of myself coming back from seven matches,” Sibomana said. “Not many people do that.”

The top seed at 100 pounds in the middle school division secured a fall in 1:59 in the first round against Brennan Ferguson of North Carolina. But in his next match in the Round of 16, Sibomana made a rare mistake, getting caught and pinned midway through the first period.

Long Beach eighth-grader Dunia Sibomana, who recently captured a New York state wrestling championship, placed third in a national competition on Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Credit: Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday

“All I could do was just move on,” he said. “I had to keep my head up.”

The nature of a double-elimination wrestling tournament allows competitors to regroup and move back through the consolation bracket in the hopes of securing a higher finish.

“After he lost that first match, we talked about refocusing and taking it one match at a time, and that’s exactly what he did,” Long Beach coach Ray Adams said. “We’re proud of him because to me, that shows mental toughness and fortitude.”

Sibomana pinned Tristan Carter of Virginia in 39 seconds in his first consolation match and followed that with a 19-2 technical fall over Mitchell Rowland of North Carolina.

Each consolation match was contested with one-minute periods instead of the customary two. The matches came fast and furious the rest of the day, and each time Sibomana passed the test in front of him.

“The one-minute rounds definitely helped in a way,” he said. “The periods were shorter, so I knew I only had three minutes to go at it.”

Sibomana’s rise is even more remarkable considering where he has come from. Eight years ago, when he was 6, he survived a near-death experience when he and two family members were attacked by chimpanzees in his homeland of the Congo. His brother and cousin were killed.

“He has natural ability, but he’s very coachable and he listens,” Adams said “He just got better and better as the season went along.”

Adams was reluctant to compare Sibomana to the only other Long Beach eighth-grader to win a state title, Jacori Teemer, but he knows the next four years could be something special.

“He has the potential to be anything he wants to be,” Adams said.

“We try not to draw comparisons because it’s not fair at this point and he has a lot of wrestling ahead of him. But if you ask me, ‘Do [you] think he has the potential to be one of the great ones?’ Absolutely.”

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