The curvy, jumping, kicking villain in Marvel’s blockbuster Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, played by Andy Le, is well known in the world of tricks.
Tricking, a term for a discipline that combines martial arts, gymnastics, and breakdancing, highlights the physical ability to perform the maneuvers and is honed by Antonio Dilworth, junior at Memorial High School.
Dilworth, a male cheerleader at the school, said the skill is referred to as cheering tumbling and is one of his roles as part of the roster. It also serves as a “back spot”, in other words a person behind you who makes sure that everything goes right up.
Where everything began
Dilworth and his family moved to the area from the small town of Prescott, Arkansas in 2019 when he was a freshman.
Dilworth’s father told him stories about how he would do backflips in his youth, which led the younger Dilworth to learn the skill.
Buying a trampoline helped him learn the maneuver.
Then quarantine came and there was nothing better to do, he said, so he started to deceive.
“I was in virtual class one day and they were talking about trying your hand at cheerleading, and I thought if I do that maybe I can use my self-taught skills to hopefully get a scholarship,” Dilworth said.
The self-taught con artist made it into the cheering season.
Dilworth the student
Being a cheerleader inspired Dilworth to improve his grades.
“I’m usually an AB student with a C here and there,
but because of the virtual I got lazy, careless and my grades got really bad, ”he said. “And they said if you don’t get your grades up for school, you can’t cheer.”
He knew he had to get back to his daily routine, he said, to make sure his grades are where they need to be, not just to cheer but also to graduate.
His teachers had nothing but praise for him.
“Antonio is a hard worker and a charismatic young scholar. He gets on well with his classmates and is always ready to help his classmates, ”says chemistry teacher Jesseca Ned. “He has a great relationship with the faculties and the students.”
Journalism teacher Cherith Smith said when Antonio first went to her class, she knew he would be a smart student.
“He has been actively involved since day one. He’s not afraid of doing challenging assignments in class, ”said Smith. “I feel that his participation in class motivates other students to participate. This is his freshman year at Memorial High School, but he’s quickly taken on a leadership role. “
Jacqueline Hamel, art director at Memorial High School, said Dilworth showed incredible artistic ability, as well as respect and kindness to teachers and peers.
“His future looks bright,” she said. “Memorial High School and Port Arthur are going to see great things from this young man.”
Tricking, the future & more
Dilworth has a YouTube channel Toni Trickz that he tries to upload at least once a month.
“It really is a documentation of my progress and tricks through my journey,” he said.
Occasionally he adds to his repertoire.
“My fall is not where I want it to be,” he said. “My form is not the best, but I occasionally throw in a ploy that if I tried gymnastics I would be disqualified because it’s not very technical how I ended up. It’s more for show and conspicuity. “
Dilworth originally wanted to practice martial arts but the pandemic got in the way, hence the path to cheerleading.
He wants to attend Navarro College in Corsicana because of the Cheer program.
The Navarro College Cheer Team has won 14 national championships, according to its website, and has won its fifth NCA Grand National Championship since 2012.
Dilworth is pursuing an associate degree in psychology, but his plans for the future continue.
“Since I was little, I’ve always loved Japanese culture and Asia in general. So if everything goes according to plan, hopefully I’ll get my staff and move to Kobe, Japan, ”he said. “Hopefully by then I’ll have access to gyms so I can practice my tricks or compete, so I can make money and meet people because I want to travel.”
Dilworth originally thought he was the first male cheerleader at Memorial High School but learned he wasn’t.
“Even if I’m not the first, I want to make sure that I’m not the last. I’m trying to pave the way for other generations, ”he said.