Autism spectrum youth captures national honors at wrestling event
Grappling is only one of his many interests
By Richard Gutiérrez
Many initiatives exist today in order to embrace inclusion and representation. Groups of people from many different backgrounds in 2023 are more validated and represented than ever.
Special needs individuals are one of the groups of people that fall into the category of people that society requires receive the proper education in order to be well represented and understood by members of the community.
The Special Olympics, for example, is the world’s largest sports organization for adults and children with intellectual disabilities. Track and field, however, is not the only activity special needs individuals take an active interest in. Recently, reporters specialized in the subject of national wrestling from the Gates of Contralona and Lucha Libre Online, specifically Michael Morales Torres and Joel Torres, have united to offer a rather heartwarming award to the young wrestler Daniel Caballer Cabrera, who is known as Chupi Hunter, from the Autism Championship, which was part of the World Wrestling Council’s (WWC) Summer Madness event held at the Pepín Cestro recreation court in Bayamón.
Born on March 30, 2000 in Humacao, Caballera Cabrera is currently a resident of the Camino Nuevo neighborhood in Yabucoa. He is well supported by both his father’s side of the family and his extended family, and his parents José Ernesto Caballer Rodríguez and Marie Rose Cabrera Soto, along with his brother and sisters, Jancarlo Caballer Cabrera, Bárbara C. Marrero and Paola C. Marrero. For Daniel’s success, teamwork has been essential to his growth.
Daniel had normal growth and development until he turned 18 months old, when a series of events accelerated the process of a recoil in his development. He lost appetite, interest in interacting with others and the ability to communicate verbally. From an early age he received assistance from the island Health Department in Caguas, Early Schooling, Head Start in Humacao and the Department of Education’s Special Education program.
When Daniel turned 3 years of age, he was diagnosed with atypical autism and severe speech lag, among other health conditions. During his early years of public education he primarily took classes in the Special Education classrooms in several schools: Marta Sánchez in Yabucoa, Margarita Rivera de Janer in Gurabo and Rufino Vigo in Humacao.
It wasn’t until he was 11 years old that Daniel was able to join a regular classroom, beginning in third grade. He was able to graduate with honors from S.U. Jesús Sanabria middle school in Yabucoa. Finally, at the age of 21, he obtained his high school diploma from Teodoro Aguilar Mora school in Yabucoa.
Caballer Cabrera is currently 23 years old, with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, with limitations in verbal comprehension and the use of language and numerical reasoning with a weakness in verbal reasoning and short-term retention. This lengthy diagnosis has not been a limitation for Caballera Cabrera, however. Instead, it is viewed more as a challenge ready to be taken on. His diagnosis has not prevented him from participating in activities such as softball, drama and singing. He also serves the community alongside the Christian Ministry “Christ on the Boat.” He also receives services from the Agricultural Extension program in Yabucoa with Professor Sheyla Ríos. He has continued to study after high school, taking courses in confectionery at National University College in Fajardo.
When it comes to the arts, Caballer Cabrera doesn’t stay behind, either; he is currently taking a music class. Prof. Reinaldo López, a teacher and director of the community band known as Kojokma Band Project, has given Caballer Cabrera the opportunity to learn how to play the flute and participate in the band camp, where he’s developed concentration, memory and security skills among many others.
Led by his stepfather, Rafael “Rafy” Marrero, who worked for many years in the wrestling industry, Caballer Cabrera has also developed in that area of sports. He takes classes at Attitude Wrestling Academy, a professional wrestling school in Humacao. His teacher is Miguel Maldonado, known as Mr. Big, who has been responsible for his training. Maldonado has provided him with the strategies, methodologies and techniques to be able to develop physical strength, motor coordination, verbal comprehension and mental retention so that Caballer Cabrera can improve personally and professionally.
Caballer Cabrera has become a motivator and role model for other people with special conditions, which has captured the attention of the island’s wrestling press.
On March 31 of this year, the wrestling company Immortal Wrestling Revolution and its management recognized Chupi Hunter -- Daniel Caballer Cabrera -- for his achievements as the first wrestler with autism, being part of a professional wrestling card, where he faced Prof. Said. The recognition took place in Dorado where Caballer Cabrera was accompanied by his favorite pro wrestler, Joe Bravo.
Meanwhile, the Lionheart Wrestling Association company in the state of Florida invited him to be part of what was called the Road to Gold event. That event took place on April 29 in Orlando, where Caballer Cabrera made history in the world of wrestling as a representative and champion of the autism community.