When faced with adversity, few choose to embrace and overcome their challenges. For Georgia high schooler and St. Cloud State wrestling recruit Devon Berry, his entire life has been one of persistence and determination. Berry and his twin sister were born with complications, which led to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy for Devon at the age of 3.
For Berry, giving up has never been an option. He’s a tri-sport athlete at Hampton High School in metro Atlanta who recently signed a wrestling scholarship to wrestle at reigning NCAA DII national champion St. Cloud State. Berry will attend St. Cloud State next fall, joining a wrestling team that contends for the NCAA Division II national title year after year.
“I’ve always said that having confidence is the start of having success and in order to be something you have to do something,” said Berry, when discussing his overcoming of adversity to receive his wrestling scholarship. “I lost almost all of my matches in middle school and in high school I decided I didn’t want to be the minority anymore.”
Having to use a walker or a wheelchair to move hasn’t held Berry back. His immense upper body strength has helped him wrestle his way to becoming a 2 time area champion and a #3 ranking in the state. Berry credits his ability to his work ethic, his guidance from his mother, and most importantly, his faith in God.
Berry first caught the media spotlight in 2012 when he was recognized for his courageous effort on the football field. A defensive lineman for the Hampton High School Hornets, Berry doesn’t let his cerebral palsy stop him from playing the sports that he loves. The Atlanta Falcons recently honored Devon, making him an honorary captain for their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 1st. ESPN will be airing a feature about Berry on their investigative journalism show E:60 on December 15th at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“When I first got to high school, people were always telling me I couldn’t compete, but God said yes for the battle is not yours, but God’s,” Berry mentioned when discussing his profound faith. Berry has marched to a 100-25 record in his wrestling career and hopes to continue that success at St. Cloud State.
“I want to change the [student] body at St. Cloud State,” he says. “I want to make St. Cloud State know that it is okay to be disabled and that it is okay to be different. That’s how God made you.”
Just how does Devon manage to accomplish everything?
“I chose hard work over talent,” he says. “I started ignoring the negativity and started listening and thinking positively.”
Academics haven’t taken a backseat for Berry either. He is also an honors student with a 3.7 GPA. He plans to study broadcast journalism at St. Cloud State, citing famed sports journalist Stephen A. Smith and the late Stuart Scott as his inspirations. He hopes to become a sports commentator for ESPN one day.
Berry also hopes to minor in theology, so he can continue to inspire and teach others about his faith. Berry is not only an inspiration on the field, but to everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him.
“Devon is an incredibly hard worker with a great attitude and strong determination,” said Britt Morton, athletic director at Hampton High School. “He is an inspiration to [his] coach.”
The recruiting process was relatively harmless for Berry. “I was proactive,” he said. “I emailed [St. Cloud State] coach Costanzo just for the interest and found myself very interested. I was offered a scholarship the next day.”
Berry will wrestle at the 125 pound weight class for the Huskies and hopes to become the first disabled NCAA Division II national champion. He gains motivation from disabled NCAA Division I national champion Anthony Robles, who won a national championship despite having only one leg.
Beyond the wrestling mat, Devon Berry is more than just a gifted athlete. He’s a hard-working, driven, inspirational individual with a heart of gold who refuses to let his disability affect him. Beneath it all lies a contagious smile and positivity that illuminates every room that he enters. And that’s just how remarkable of a human being Devon Berry truly is.