Seventh-grader Jacob Arias and third-grader Jacob Cuesta have more in common than their school and first names: Both have taekwondo black belts, and both gold-medaled at the July 2019 AAU Junior Olympics.
At the time, Jacob Arias was 12, and Jacob Cuesta 8. Already, they’d been in the sport for most of their lives (Jacob Arias started training at age 5, and Jacob Cuesta at age 2). In addition, both study with Master Tony Perri Taekwondo just a few blocks from Farragut’s campus.
Jacob Arias won four gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze. Jacob Cuesta won five gold medals and three silver. They shared one of those gold medals as part of a three-person team, for synchronized forms. (The third competitor, teammate Kristian Ramlochan, is not a Farragut student.)
Like the boys, taekwondo is fairly young — having emerged as a martial art less than 100 years ago. It is characterized by an emphasis on kicking, including head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast-kicking techniques.
The Jacobs visited the epicenter of taekwondo in 2017, when they and several others studied at South Korea’s Chosun University. While there, yet one more Jacob was with the group. To lessen the confusion, Jacob Arias became Dragon Jacob and Jacob Cuesta became Tiger Jacob, nicknames they still carry today.
“This helped when someone was calling for Jacob and all three boys turned around,” said Diane Trumbull, mother of Jacob Arias.
Both boys were drawn to the strength and discipline of taekwondo. Plus, you never know when those skills will come in handy.
“I started practicing taekwondo so I can protect my family and friends,” Jacob Cuesta told WTSP 10 News.
Both he and his grandfather, John Cuesta, say their life mission is to serve the public. Jacob Cuesta hopes to attend the United States Naval Academy and have a career as a U.S. Navy officer. John Cuesta was a Tampa Police officer before becoming an attorney.
Meanwhile, Jacob Arias, a second-degree black belt, aspires to serve in a different way: “His engineering interests are to develop new communication and weapon systems for the military to keep our country safe,” said Trumbull, through whom Jacob met — and has been inspired by — many Raytheon engineers.
To achieve tomorrow’s dreams, both boys are working hard today. For instance, their before-school routine includes weighing in, stretching, doing forms, and running on the treadmill for about two miles.
“To be successful in TKD takes goal-setting, focus, and hard work,” said Jacob Arias, “just like what is needed to be successful in my Farragut classes.”