VALDOSTA -- Lowndes High's David Bertsch is taking his four region titles and 125-pound state championship with him to one of the top college wrestling programs in the South.

Bertsch signed this week to wrestle for Cumberland (Ky.) College, an NAIA school that finished 10th in the nation last year and routinely schedules NCAA Division I opponents. The Patriots have a deep pool of talent and expect Bertsch to help uphold a winning tradition.

"I'll be in there with a lot of star power," he said. "They've got four All-Americans right off the bat when I get there."

Still, Bertsch's high school career indicates he should be able to more than hold his own. He went 188-38 while becoming only the second South Georgia wrestler to win four region championships. This past season, Bertsch was 52-2 and helped lead the Vikings to a 12th-place finish in the Class AAAAA state tournament, along with teammate and 145-pound champion Matt Godwin.

"He was a solid point for us. We could always expect a win out of him when we needed it," said Lowndes coach Spencer Graybill.

Two things helped steer Bertsch to Cumberland. He spent a week at the school last summer for a wrestling camp, and he formed a strong relationship with Patriots coach Jess Wilder, a teammate of Graybill's at Carson-Newman (Tenn.) College.

"(Wilder) saw David last year and was real impressed with him," said Graybill. "He's going into a good program, and he's going to be a good fit. He's going to have some real good wrestlers that are going to be able to teach him early. There's a couple of kids there who are (first-team) All-Americans, and one of them is a national champ."

One adjustment for Bertsch will be moving up to the 133-pound weight class, although he expects to redshirt for this coming season. But he understands that his time will come at Cumberland.

"They're just looking to keep the star power going when the seniors leave," he said. "They'll have that next step."

And Bertsch figures to be a big part of it.



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