By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Antonio Garcia led 11-3 entering the third period over Central’s Gabriel Padilla Saturday evening at the Salem Armory. But yet the Senior, who was on the verge of his first District Title in his four-year career, had found himself on his back with his knee being tending to.
His knee, just some ligament issues, had been irritating him coming down the home-stretch of his 14-3 District Title win on this evening and had risk the Viking from his last crack of the District Title.
And as the injury time dwindled down, one thing reminded him why he should continue: his mentor. Jorge Ochoa, a 2018 North Salem-graduate. Years after Ochoa’s graduation, the mentor is still influencing the pupil
“That man had no quit in him. He tore his Labrum, he dislocated his hip. He showed up three days later and wrestled at state,” said Garcia of Ochoa. “Seeing him go through all that pain. All that emotion and still wanting to work hard, it blew my mind.
“I look at that and said, ‘that’s going to be me’. No matter how much pain I’m in. No matter how much adversity I’ll have to face, I’m going to keep working and I’m going to keep pushing.”
The figurative Rocky music started playing as Garcia got up to finish the match. Scoring three more points while holding Padilla at bay from pulling an upset. Padilla did try to take advantage of the knee, but of Garcia answered in the process.
Now entering his final State Tournament, the question becomes how will Garcia respond after finally getting the District Title. After losing the last two years, last year winning State, the question becomes how can he repeat?
“This year. Just because I won Districts, my foot isn’t any much of the pedal,” said Garcia. “I got to keep going. I got to keep working hard and got to prepare to repeat as a State Champion.”
Joining Garcia at State will be Julio Ramirez (113, third), Logan Basham (120, fourth), Imyas Aguilar (182, fourth) and Octavio Maldonado (285).
Maldonado, who finished second to number-one seed out of Dallas Ashton Bretch, who is expected to be highly-ranked at the State Meet Saturday in Portland; had stunned South Albany’s Matthew Cobb with a pin at the 3:45 mark before falling to Bretch in the finals by pin.
Being seeded sixth, being able to rally the way he did was great, but getting the experience against a Cobb and a Bretch will help Maldonado in preparation for State this upcoming week.
“I didn’t expect it to be easy. I never expect it to be easy,” said Maldonado. “I expect it to be hard because they all are ranked higher than me. But I never really think about wins…I just think about wrestling. If I wrestle them, than someone will get tired and I’ll just do my thing.
“Wrestling the number-one seed, I think that helped me. I’m going to work on it this week for State and I hope I get better for it.”