Ace Cheer

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 by Brad Locke
photos by Lindsay Pace

David Schuch didn’t discover his passion for cheerleading until he started college. Although at the time, it wasn’t so much a passion as it was the best option available. He had played baseball and football in high school, but had no offers to play in college.

So Schuch decided to give cheerleading a shot. Why?

“It’s cliché, but probably the girls, I guess,” he said with a laugh.

But he soon began taking cheer seriously, and he got good at it. In fact, he did it for 10 years. After finishing high school in Traverse City, Michigan, Schuch cheered for five years at Central Michigan University, then another two-and-a-half years at Morehead State University in Kentucky as he pursued a master’s degree. And then he finished up at the University of Memphis pursuing a Ph.D. in special education.

Schuch’s Morehead State squad won three national titles, and he helped Memphis win a national title and a world championship. While he was at Memphis, Schuch and his wife at the time started coaching area cheer squads. They did that for five years before coming to Saltillo in 2014 to run Ace of North Mississippi, which coaches athletes in cheer, dance and tumbling.

Ace moved to Tupelo in 2017, which is when Schuch bought it from owners Mary and Joe Huckaby. The 9,000-square-foot gym is located on Fenco Drive, off Coley Road, and has been churning out national championship squads for years. Since 2015, Ace has produced 46 national champions at various levels of competition.

The Gunslingers, a Youth Level 3 squad of 6-12 year-olds.

“We were so successful, I told Mary and Joe Huckaby, ‘You know what, we’re ready to purchase, and if you don’t want to come to an agreement, then we’ll start our own,’” Schuch said. “They’re great people, such good people, and they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll sell.’”

Ace has 74 athletes across six total all-star teams, ranging in age from 3 to 22. While cheer is the main focus, Ace teaches tumbling for children as young as 18 months and also offers individual dance lessons. The gym has 318 members, and cheer squads from area schools come there to put in work.

“Anything to do with cheerleading, we are the gym,” Schuch said.

Truth be told, it’s about much more than cheerleading for 37-year-old Schuch. His real passion is teaching. In fact, he works as a special education teacher at the Tupelo Public School District’s alternative school.

“I kind of believe that God put me on this earth to be a father figure to males and females who don’t have a father figure,” Schuch said. “In my heart of hearts, that’s what I believe.”

That’s the approach he takes at both school and the gym. At Ace, cheer is secondary.

“We try to really focus on the athletes as a person, because cheerleading or basketball or football is neither here nor there. It is what it is, and it’s a sport and it teaches you discipline, but after that we’re trying to teach these young ladies and young gentlemen how to be a productive member of society,” Schuch said.

A practice area in the gym.

“We’re teaching them discipline. We’re teaching them hard work. We’re teaching them just how to be a respectful person. At the end of every practice we don’t end the practice with talking about how they did at practice, we talk about how that can further them in life, how that can further them in being a better wife or better husband, a better role model to their children if they ever have children.”

Schuch is not doing this alone. He has 16 employees at Ace.

“If I ain’t got my people, I’m in trouble. They are my backbone.”

He might have to increase his staff if Ace keeps growing. Schuch is looking to expand his building to 15,000 feet to accommodate more athletes. He hopes part of that growth includes more male cheerleaders. He said the gym has two on its tiny novice team (for ages 3-6), one on its junior team and two on its senior team.

“I wish there was more, and I pray for that every day,” Schuch said. “But the ones that we do have are great role models. It encourages males to do our sport, because it is an awesome athletic sport, but it is a female-centered sport for sure.”

Schuch said that when he was in high school, he never could have imagined himself becoming a cheerleader, never mind teaching cheer way down in Mississippi. But he’s right where he wants to be.

“I did not think I was going to do cheerleading,” he said. “It was an awesome hobby and activity, but then once I started getting good it kind of took over.”

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