During wrestling season, 17-year-old Marcus Garcia, a junior at Dolores Huerta Preparatory High School, wakes up and gets ready for a rigorous schedule. If there’s not a perfect balance of school, training and his social life, things can get ugly real quick.
When wrestling is your life, you have to devout everything you have to be the best and that’s what he did leading up to the CHSAA State Wrestling Championship. Marcus, 31-4, went into his final match with nerves, but quickly pulled out a pin to finish the tournament with the first place spot.
Marcus spent the first half of his life in Center, Colorado, also known as the agricultural center of the San Luis Valley. It’s a small town of about 2,200. It’s very quiet, as there isn’t much to do outside of working. But since moving to Pueblo, life is anything but slow-paced for the wrestler. He trains hard and it keeps him busy.
This year might not have been his first visit to the State Wrestling Championship, but this was his first time being crowned a champion.
There are a few things that Marcus has in common with most other state champions. The main one is having a purpose for wrestling. Marcus might not seem certain if he loves wrestling like every other wrestler, but he knows that he does not want to disappoint his father and he definitely wants to make his family proud.
“My main purpose [for wrestling] is my dad, he wants me to have a successful life and he felt that wrestling would get me somewhere,” Marcus said. “When it comes to wrestling, that’s the thing that me and my dad have. That’s our thing.”
When I spoke with Marcus, the mild-mannered young man didn’t seem sure if he necessarily has a passion for wrestling, but he knows that he loves the feeling of winning. The constant feeling of being a champion is almost enough to outweigh the damage and beating he took during the season, so you might just chalk it up to “that’s the price you pay to be a champion.”
“I really don’t like going to practice, but who doesn’t?” Marcus said. “I go because I have to. No one likes going to practice and getting slammed on their head all of the time, but you get used to it.”
Marcus went on to explain that he dislikes a lot of aspects of wrestling, mainly because the preparation is an everyday thing at certain parts in the season. But his training, on average, takes up about an hour and a half of his time during the day, for 6 days out of the week.
Another part of preparation Marcus brought up is something that all wrestlers must endure, unless they naturally weigh under their weight class requirement, and that’s the weight cutting process.
“My main purpose [for wrestling] is my dad, he wants me to have a successful life and he felt that wrestling would get me somewhere. When it comes to wrestling, that’s the thing that me and my dad have. That’s our thing.” – Marcus Garcia, state champion
“Some of my dislikes are being away for long periods of time and cutting weight,” Marcus explained. “Not eating for a couple of days isn’t a fun thing to do and then training on top of that takes a toll on you.”
That’s not the only thing he has to do to cut weight, he also has to spit – a common practice among wrestlers.
This is a process that can be dangerous if not done right. On the day of the weigh in, you chew on gum or put some kind of hard candy in your mouth to kick up the rate of salivation and then spit into a bottle instead of swallowing it. It’s common to lose up to two pounds if it’s done all day, but that’s when dehydration can be an issue, so it walks a fine line. Marcus hasn’t had any issues with spitting, but it can be stressful.
Though there is no real way to regulate the extremities of weight cutting, the process has been under major scrutiny at the collegiate level. Most forms of dehydration have been prohibited under the NCAA rules and regulation, but it is a popular tactic within the wrestling community. It has and continues to be a part of the culture when it comes to wrestling.
After 12 years of wrestling – he started out when he was five years old – Marcus has realized that wrestling can take him many places and that’s the internal drive that he feeds off of.
Though there is an obvious struggle for him when it comes to his love/hate relationship with wrestling, but there’s a very similar story with a lot of young wrestlers all around the country. He said many times that his reason for wrestling is his dad, and that’s a similar answer that came from other state champion wrestlers in Pueblo.
It seems that it is hard to stay motivated without someone giving you a reason, so with young wrestlers, they look to their father. Just like Marcus, many other wrestlers are put into wrestling by someone else and they decide if they love it, but that’s not always the case. With Marcus, he might not be sure if he loves wrestling and he might not be sure if he’ll continue it after school, but he knows it kept him out of trouble. He just knows that, for him, it’s worth all of the time and pain he has endured on the mat.
Home of Champions: Mat Dominance, the state champion wrestlers
The City of Champions continues to win big.
In the small city of Pueblo a group of wrestlers have been preparing for the CHSAA State Wrestling Championship nearly their entire life. Some started in elementary school, others in middle school, but everything they have done to prepare has led them to their first place result in the final match of the year.
It led them to be crowned the best of their class and labeled a state champion.
For this state-qualifying class of 2015, it meant making a statement for Pueblo athletics. After all the buzz from the latest triumph and prosperity of Pueblo sports, these kids felt more proud than ever to represent their city. This year’s State Wrestling Championship resulted in 6 champions and 45 wrestlers qualifying from Pueblo.
Pueblo made its presence known in the 4A portion of the championship, with at least one wrestler qualifying in every weight class and a wrestler placing in each of all of the weight classes but two. From the lightest weight, to the heaviest, nearly 20 percent of the state qualifiers represented the Steel City.
Last year, there were only two wrestlers who took home a championship medal and one of those wrestlers made it happen again this year.
Hunter Willits, a 16-year-old sophomore from County High School, is a repeat champion.
In 2014, Willits dominated and came home a champion in the CHSAA 4A 132-pound weight class, just to come home and prepare to do it again. This year he took it all in the 4A 138-pound weight class.
County had a successful crew this year. There were three champions this year from powerhouse. Willits was accompanied by teammates Chris Sandoval and Josiah Nava.
Nava, the youngest champion of the bunch and lightest, is only 15 years old and has already won a state championship match as a freshman, in the 4A 106 pound weight class. From here, his goal is to continue a successful career as a wrestler, especially now that he has experience in wrestling at a championship level and knowing he can win. If Nava continues to train vigorously like he has this last year, his chances will be much more likely as the year goes on.
His other teammate, Sandoval 16, also wrestled hard all year to finish off the year as a state champion. It was another domination as Sandoval finished his final match with a 6-0 decision. Just like the rest of his team, he left it all on the mat.
Another champion who wasn’t new to the big stage of high school wrestling, was East High School’s Jacob Robles.
The 285 pound champion has qualified for the State Wrestling Tournament every year of his high school wrestling career. Now that he has gotten better since his freshman year, his determination has him set on a path to go for a repeat during his senior year.
On the opposite side of town at South High School, 4A 175 pound champion Austin Zuniga, 17, went to the state tournament for his third time and pulled away with a first place finish.
For someone who started wrestling when he was only three years old, it was a long time coming for his chance to be a champion. Though his main focus might not be set on wrestling, it looks good on his chances of wrestling in college, if he decided to take that route.
Marcus Garcia, 17, at Dolores Huerta Preparatory High, came out of the woodworks and took first place in the 3A 195 pound weight class. The junior might have had a rough start as a wrestler, but he has worked his way to being a champion. He qualified for the state tournament during his freshman year, but he didn’t place and didn’t qualify again until this year. And well, this year he won big.
What matters now for them, is they were champions. Life moves forward but the years of waking up early, training when their bodies told them to quit, the grinding schedule with the bruised egos after a loss are replaced with feeling of being the best in Colorado.