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GOOD NEWS!: Ravena teen is nationally ranked cornhole player

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Cameron D’Ambrosio competing on the cornhole tournament circuit. Contributed photo

RAVENA — Perhaps one of the most unique outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it turned a local teen into a nationally ranked professional athlete.

Cameron D’Ambrosio, 14, is a rising sophomore at RCS High School and is ranked 26th in the country in the sport of cornhole. He is also a junior national champion and has a dozen sponsors clamoring — and paying — for him to use their equipment.

And the sports icon ESPN even featured Cameron on one of their broadcasts about the game.

Cornhole is a game in which the player tosses small 1-pound bags at a target, an inclined wooden platform with a hole at one end.

The Ravena teen first discovered the game at 11 years old when he was home during the COVID shutdowns and looking for something to do. So, his father, who plays cornhole himself, introduced him to the game.

“I started playing in my driveway,” Cameron said. “When COVID hit I was bored at home so I would just throw every day in my driveway. Eventually we started traveling to tournaments and when I noticed that I was a top player in the game, I took off from there.”

In addition to practicing in his backyard, Cameron travels around the country to participate in the cornhole tournament circuit. The sport has taken him to places as far away as Texas and Las Vegas, Nevada, to play in tournaments hosted by the American Cornhole League, which governs the sport around the world.

Fourteen-year-old Cameron D’Ambrosio, right, with his teammate Brayden Wilson, 11. Contributed photo

Even though he started playing cornhole just three years ago at the age of 11, Cameron is already considered a professional and plays as part of a two-member team. His partner is 11-year-old Brayden Wilson, a fifth grader who lives in Texas.

Cameron and Brayden don’t practice together because they live on opposite ends of the country, but they meet at tournaments and team up together.

“I met him at a tournament and I knew if we played together — we throw similar bags and we are sponsored by the same company — I knew we would be a good duo,” Cameron said.

Under the American Cornhole League rules, all ages can compete against each other and males and females compete in the same matches.

“The American Cornhole League’s slogan is anyone can play, anyone can win, so you have people from 11 to 80 playing,” he said.

Cameron and Brayden were the national USA Junior champions and were interviewed on ESPN following their victory. He also teamed up with another player, Berklee Pair, of Virginia, to win the largest national cornhole tournament ever.

“There were over 450 teams there and we ended up winning the whole thing,” Cameron said.

Cameron D’Ambrosio, left, with one of his teammates, Berklee Pair. Contributed photo

There’s money to be made at the larger tournaments, including some that Cameron has won.

“You have to pay an entry fee for the tournaments, typically $60 a person or $120 a team, so if you win a big tournament, you walk out of there with thousands of dollars,” he said.

He also has 12 sponsors, from companies that sell apparel to cornhole boards and bags. The sponsors pay him to use their equipment at his matches.

Cameron said the sport is a lot of fun and he has made friends from around the country as he traveled to tournaments. His mother, in fact, said the social aspect of the game has been one of the most important benefits.

“It’s a great experience. It helps him grow and become more social, especially being that COVID happened when he was in middle school, right during the years that you build those social skills,” Kyleen D’Ambrosio said. “That was taken away from him due to COVID, so this is huge for him for that reason.”

So, how do you become a nationally ranked cornhole player in three years?

“It’s just practice,” Cameron said. “The biggest thing is to have a flat bag so when it flies in the air — a lot of people let it spin with the corners in the air — you want it to look like a Frisbee, so it comes flat out of your hand. That’s the main thing. Once you get that done, it’s pretty easy from there.”

Cameron D’Ambrosio of Ravena, left, and Brayden Wilson, of Texas, after winning the National USA Junior Championship. Contributed photo

With the American Cornhole League’s season ending a couple of weeks ago, Cameron was ranked the 26th top player in the sport in the country.

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