Taft champ is ‘King of the Cage’

David “Kid Kryptonite” Converse

LINCOLN CITY — A 27-year-old fighter who earned the only state championship wrestling title in Taft High School history continued his unrelenting bid to become a superstar of mixed-martial arts Saturday at Chinook Winds Casino and Resort.

David “Kid Kryptonite” Converse, born into a troubled home but raised by a loving grandmother in Otis, defeated Richard Carranza in a unanimous decision that reminded some ardent fans of his legendary prep performance as a junior wrestler on the Taft squad.

“He’s slippery as eel skin on the ground,” remarked Justin Witherspoon, who traveled from Portland to watch the King of the Cage fight card from a $100 ringside seat. “He can’t be choked, and he can’t be hit. He could go all the way.”

Converse has been fighting his whole life. Born in Lincoln City to a mom who was often absent and a father who isn’t mentioned, he struggled in school until he went out for the seventh-grade wrestling team. Under Coach Rodriguez, his work ethic and physical instincts were honed in grueling workouts that produced a 16-year-old state champion.

While the young “phenom” couldn’t be pinned by opponents, Converse lost his shot at a second title after a run-in with the law in 2011. The matter went to trial where Converse was found not guilty, but he paid a heavy price that overshadowed his championship reputation.

“The ring is a great metaphor for my life,” said Converse as an athletic commission doctor examined him after Saturday’s three-round bout. “It’s inevitable that anything can happen, and that things could go horrible. All you can do is fight back.”

After graduating from Taft in 2011, he decided to enter MMA’s minor leagues. Under the guidance and management of Mike Koffel, the father-figure he now calls ‘Dad,’ Converse established an astonishing 20-4 record on the Northwest fight club circuit.

“Dad wanted me to train like I was in college, ‘red-shirting’ for a couple of years before I entered the cage,” he recalled of the man who has been at his side since he was 10. “Dad has my best interests at heart. He doesn’t want a dime from me, but he reads every contract I sign 800 times over.”

King of the Cage promoters recognized Converse’s talent and signed him to his first professional bout at Chinook Winds in Sept., 2018, which he also won. As “Kid Kryptonite,” named for Superman’s son, his professional record is now 2-0.

Like many professional athletes, Converse leads an ascetic life. After working at a box-manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, where he now lives, he trains three or four hours a day. Comfortable at 150 pounds, his pre-fight ‘cut’ sheds 25 pounds for the bantamweight division.

He still reflects on his days as a rebellious child and how high school wrestling turned his life around.

“I’d tell everybody in the world to put on wrestling shoes and a singlet, because you’ll never have to work harder in life than you do in practice,” he said. “The whole grind and grit of my adulthood is a lot easier.”


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