By Mike Wertman
Medina Journal-Register — LYNDONVILLE - The ability to overcome an adversity, a handicap or a disability is certainly a formula for success at any level of sports competition.
Locally that ability to successfully overcome a disability is well exemplified by Lyndonville eighth grader Dustin Hinkley who is certainly not letting his visual impairment stand in the way of his very successful varsity wrestling career.
“You accept your disability and don’t try to hide it. I pretty much act like a normal kid,” said Dustin who has no straight ahead vision and only some peripheral vision.
“Dustin has risen above the disability and he excels,” said Lyndonville wrestling coach Jeff Gress. “He works as hard at practice as he does on the mat and that’s nice to see.”
“Dustin is just a great role model for other kids who see themselves in a similar situation,” Lyndonville Athletic Director Lee Dillenbeck said. “He shows them that they can overcome disabilities and compete. It’s just outstanding to see him compete and do very well. He’s a great kid, a great student and a great role model.”
“He’s very competitive, He hates to lose and he never uses his handicap as an excuse,” said his dad, Jeff Hinkley who notes that Dustin’s disability was discovered when he was seven.
But whether at home or at practice both his dad and coach note that Dustin is treated the same as everyone else and that approach is just fine with the young wrestler.
“We don’t cut him any slack,” said his dad. “He’s got chores to do and homework to do.”
Dustin is in his second year of varsity competition after competing for three years at the youth club level.
And with the exception of the “touch start” when the wrestlers are in the neutral position, his matches are the same as any other.
“The touch start levels the playing field and is really for the safety of the wrestlers as Dustin cannot see directly in front of him,” said Gress who noted that they learned about the “touch start” several years ago when Dustin was competing at a Tournament of Champions in Ohio where they saw another wrestler using it.
“I enjoy the varsity competition. You get to go against and beat good kids,” said Dustin who when asked if his vision disability caused him any problems or concerns while wrestling he quickly replied, “not at all. You just go out and work hard”
Dustin, who placed fifth at the Section V Class B Tournament last year as a seventh grader, is off to a strong start again this year including a first place finish at the Campbell-Savona Tournament with a 7-0 record, a second place finish at the Akron Tournament and participation in the prestigious Eastern States Tournament this past weekend as well as dual match pins over local foes from Albion, Medina and Barker.
Though his vision is not 20/20 Dustin certainly has a clear vision and focus what he wants to accomplish on the mat and is not letting his disability deter him from that.