SYCAMORE – Austin Culton has been named the Grand Marshal of the 2012 Pumpkin Festival parade. A senior at Sycamore High School, Austin earned the distinction of becoming the first Spartan to ever win an individual wrestling title last year. Compiling a record of 34-4, he won the Illinois High School Association's 152-pound 2A state championship in February.
In announcing his selection as grand marshal, a press release by the Pumpkin Festival Committee reported that "with the Olympics this summer highlighting the world's sports champions, it would be appropriate to recognize one of Sycamore's champions in our parade this year."
The lifelong Sycamore resident is the son of Randy and Dana Culton. Like his older brother Kyle, Austin has been involved in wrestling for as long as he can remember. He is also the starting running back for the Spartans football team.
But it is in wrestling that the 17-year-old has found the most success. In middle school, he won state titles at 108 pounds in seventh grade and 130 pounds in eighth grade in the Illinois Kids' Wrestling Federation. Although he qualified for state as a freshman in high school at 130 pounds, he lost his first match and wasn't able to place.
Austin spent a few minutes discussing wrestling and the Pumpkin Festival with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson.
MidWeek: How long have you been wrestling?
Austin Culton: I started when I was about 4, 5 years old. I started with the Sycamore Youth Wrestling Club.
MW: Didn't your father wrestle too?
AC: He wrestled in Wisconsin. He went to state a couple of times in high school, but I don't think he placed. He also wrestled in college, at Northern Michigan.
MW: Your brother also wrestled, so is it safe to safe that wrestling runs in your family? Wrestling is kind of like a cult sport, isn't it?
AC: Exactly. If you're the son of a wrestler, most likely you're going to wrestle.
MW: How long have you been playing football?
AC: Since I was 9. ...I'm a two-year varsity starter at running back. I just play offense.
MW: Of the two sports, which do you prefer?
AC: I get asked that all the time. I would say football is more fun, but wrestling is a lifestyle.
MW: You had a lot of close matches in winning the state title last season. Two were by one point and one was by two.
AC: There's no easy way to win it. ...You know you're going to have those kind of matches in the bracket.
MW: In the finals, you beat Jake Kaminsky of Lemont, 2-1. Can you describe what happened?
AC: I had an escape and a penalty point, so I was ahead 2-0. Then he got an escape. And that was it.
MW: Was it on your mind you were going for the state title?
AC: The day of the match I didn't have any match but the finals. That was all I was thinking about. But once you step on the mat and get going, it's just like another match. You just get lost in the moment and get wrestling. ...It was like 10 seconds left in the third (period) when it hit me.
MW: Having won the state title last season, does that put extra pressure on you this season, making you a marked man in a way?
AC: I mean, yeah, they'll probably want to do everything they can to beat me, but I feel its always been like that. It's no big deal.
MW: Do you have any goals for this season?
AC: Obviously, I went to go and win it again. But I'm just going to focus on one match at a time. I'm going to have some tough matches.
MW: What weight do you think you'll go at this season?
AC: The same as last year, 152.
MW: When did you find out you had been chosen as Pumpkin Festival Grand Marshal?
AC: In August. Football was just starting, and my head coach gave me a number to call, and he kind of briefly told me. I didn't know what he meant. Then, about a month ago, I was officially told.
MW: Was it a surprise?
AC: Yeah, kind of. It's one of those things you don't even think about. You don't apply for it. ...I think it's an honor. I've been living in Sycamore my whole life and been going to the parade as long as I can remember. It's a big deal.
I think it's something I'll probably appreciate more when I get older. But, obviously, I still know what an honor it is.
MW: What are your duties?
AC: I'm not really sure. I think I just ride in the parade in a nice car, waving to people, and that's it.
MW: Have you ever been in a parade before?
AC: I don't think I've been in the Pumpkin Fest parade before, but I've been in the homecoming parade.
MW: Do you have any plans for next year after you graduate?
AC: I'm going to wrestle at Northern Illinois University.
MC: Were there ever any thoughts about playing football in college?
AC: There was nothing in the mail.