For champion grapplers like Rico Montoya, wrestling season never really ends.
Montoya, who earned his third straight state championship in February, recently brought home a third-place finish from the Virginia Beach, Va., nationals, a tournament run by the National High School Coaches Association.
The Robertson sophomore competed in the 120-pound weight class, which he’s maintained as a prep the last couple years.
“He really wrestled good,” said Robertson head coach Richard Martinez. “Rico’s a hard worker, and what he did was very impressive. He lost but didn’t get down; he came back. And the kid he lost to (Cameron Sykora of Minnesota) ended up winning the tournament, the national championship. Rico’s a humble, hard-working kid.”
Montoya won his first four matches, reaching the semifinals where he ran into Sykora, who dealt him a 13-3 defeat.After getting past Sam Cali of New Jersey, Montoya pinned Irvin Enriquez of North Carolina at the 5:23 mark to capture third place in the sophomore bracket.
“The tournament was fun,” Montoya said. “The competition was exciting. As you win more, the competition gets tougher, and that’s why we travel.”
Montoya is the son of Gabriel and Ramona Montoya. He credits them as well as his coaches — Martinez, David Luna and Dennis Lucero — and drills partner Dominic Lucero.
Montoya is a veteran of the sport even though he’s just a 10th grader. He’s been active since a youngster in junior wrestling, getting coached by his dad and others in the program.
Working within the Cardinal varsity over the last three seasons, Montoya has grown in terms of skills and mat strength while building upon the poise he showed from a younger age.
“(I’m) more calm and confident in matches,” he said. “Taking people down from neutral (position) I think has been the key for me in winning tough or important matches.”
Montoya said he’s loved getting better at being on his feet.
The calm, cool demeanor and methodical breakdown of opponents he often displays is a contrast to the anxious side Montoya shows before a match. He paces the mat like a nervous tiger.
“Especially at state, I get antsy waiting,” he said.
During the wait before a match, Montoya reviews his approaches.
“I just think of every possible situation I can be in. So before the match had begun I already wrestled my opponent in my mind.”
“Once the match starts, I feel relaxed.”