4A wrestling: Mendoza motivated to better life through wrestling | PostIndependent.com

4A wrestling: Mendoza motivated to better life through wrestling

Jon Mitchell
Glenwood Springs High school senior Miguel Mendoza, left, wrestles against a Steamboat Springs wrestler during a dual match last month in Glenwood Springs.
Jon Mitchell / jmitchell@postindependent.com |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Ask Miguel Mendoza what he was doing at this time of year three years ago, and he’ll come back at you with some brutal honesty.

“Nothing,” he said. “I just went home. I didn’t do anything.”

No sports. No video games. And, predominantly, no homework.

In fact, Glenwood Springs High School assistant wrestling coach Miles Cook said that Mendoza, the Demons’ 106-pound wrestler, might have already flunked out of high school had he not started wrestling during his junior year.

Mendoza, however, won’t be sitting around and doing nothing this weekend. He’ll be one of eight Glenwood wrestlers — along with 13 Rifle wrestlers — who will compete in the Class 4A Western Regional at Montrose High School on Friday and Saturday.

“I know for sure that I wouldn’t be doing as well in school if I hadn’t started wrestling,” he said.

Mendoza, who heads into the regional with a 21-13 record, is one of five Glenwood wrestlers who come in with a winning record. Among them are 120-pounder Larry Flores (18-16), 138-pounder Myles Wilson (38-2), 160-pounder Justin Barham (32-4) and heavyweight Mitch Brown (10-9).

Wrestling in a 16-team regional tournament with the best wrestlers on this side of Colorado — much less competing for a spot in the 4A State Championships at the Pepsi Center in Denver — was the last thing on the mind of Mendoza during his freshman and sophomore year. And he didn’t have any motivation to keep his grades up, as most of his end-of-semester grades were C’s and lower.

Right after the start of his junior year, though, he was approached by now junior Cristian Gonzalez, the Demons’ top 195-pound wrestler. He convinced Mendoza to come out and try wrestling for the first time knowing that Glenwood needed someone to fill the lightweight spot in the lineup.

It turned into exactly what Mendoza needed. His grades got better thanks not only to the academic standards needed to participate, but the encouragement he got from his teammates. And that encouragement didn’t stop there, as he quickly picked up on the moves and mat tactics thanks to the extra time that was taken with him by the other guys in the wrestling room.

“This is so much like a family here,” Mendoza said. “Everyone truly cares about each other and cheers for each other no matter what. We all want to see each other succeed.”

Barham reached the state wrestling tournament as a junior last season, and he’ll likely be a high seed when the regional’s brackets are announced Friday morning. Wilson, a freshman, will also likely receive a high seed since he hasn’t lost a match since the Warrior Classic at Grand Junction Central High School in December.

13 to regional for Rifle

Rifle has five wrestlers who have qualified for state in the past, but not all of them did it last season. Dallas Rohrig at 132 pounds (19-2) is one of them who qualified last year along with 138 pounder Oscar Ruelas (15-4), 152-pounder Alex Rivas (19-9) and 195-pounder Clayton Coombs (29-8).

Also coming in with a winning record is Rifle junior heavyweight Jose Prado (25-8), who missed state last season after getting there as a freshman. Rifle freshman Alex Cordova, who wrestles at 113 pounds, comes into the weekend with a 24-14 record. Also bringing a winning record into the tournament for Rifle will be 145-pound sophomore Ethan Strouse, who enters with a 5-3 mark.

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