Flip Through To Read Story:

Full Text:

It doesn’t take a genius (heck, even I could draw these parallels) to equate wrestlers to warriors and wrestling to a battle. A battle of wits. A battle of wills. A battle of ultimate want to. And for those who really do want to win any battle, they’d be wise to heed the words of legendary strategist Sun Tzu,

“Every battle is won before it is fought.”

Words that sound great – amazing even – to win, before any fighting actually takes place. But to turn such a dream to reality… well, it doesn’t just happen. It’s not accidental. And it’s not magic. In fact, I’d say there’s a pretty clear path to setting oneself up for the sort of victory Tzu espoused lo these many centuries. A path that I’ve identified as having a few key steps, but no shortcuts. You can cheat yourself, but you can’t cheat the process. And what is that process exactly?

Purpose. Preparation. Persistence.

Simon Sinek made perhaps the most popular case for the importance of identifying one’s purpose and the role it plays in success. He referred to it as the “why” but you can call it whatever you want. The idea, of course, is that it is the underlying reason you, me, and we do anything.

We all have finite time to work with and a need to figure out exactly how we spend that time we have. And the driving force behind that figuring out is the why, or the purpose.

And it’s undeniable that having a clear purpose is important. It sets the compass, pointing you in the right direction. But it’s not enough. Not by a long shot.

Every journey requires preparation. Even a trip to the grocery store usually entails a car that needs gas, an awareness of the weather outside, and things like traffic at a specific hour. Easy preparation, admittedly, but preparation nonetheless. Something a little more daunting, like say, scaling Mount Everest, requires even more precise and arduous preparation. And then something like achieving wrestling greatness might fall somewhere between those two endeavors, but no doubt requires its own preparation.

A sharpening of the mind, body, and spirit are all necessary along this journey. And each of these aspects requires its own regimen and its diligence to reach optimum output or performance.

And then, with all that being established and set, you have to have the mindset, the discipline, to stay the course. Because the cliché about god laughing at your plans is a cliché for a reason… almost nothing goes according to plan. But that doesn’t mean planning and preparation are therefore useless, quite the contrary. The more comfortable you are in the uncomfortable, the more scenarios you have accounted for and put yourself through, the more adaptable to those changes you become. The inability for us to ever fully control external variables around us only makes preparation tantamount.

So, when things start to arise against your plans, will you still see it through? We’d all like to believe so, but if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to failure is paved with hopes and dreams. It takes more. And in this sport, it takes all you have. And then asks for more. And not everyone is built for it, and that’s fine. But for those few who are, we cheer them on and celebrate their greatness.

But you’ll notice that as we talk about the things needed to chase greatness on the mat, and greatness off it, what isn’t necessary, and what can often be detrimental to it, is being loud about it. Boasting. Arrogant. Drawing unnecessary attention. What did we learn from Lil Wayne a little over 10 years ago? Real. G’s. Move. In. Silence. And while G literally means ‘gangster’, what it means to be gangster transcends any and every lifestyle and pursuit. 

A real G knows what they want and goes after it. A real G doesn’t let anyone get in the way of their mission. A real G puts in work. Work that goes unnoticed, unpublished, and uncelebrated. NBA star Damian Lillard also has a quote along these lines, “if you want to look good in front of thousands, you have to outwork thousands in front of nobody.” Real. G’s. Move. In. Silence. Like lasagna, and like Alex Gutierrez.

The Central Catholic sophomore has spent the better part of his early career under the radar and overlooked. But he’s been working, moving, behind the scenes, with one goal in mind: wrestling greatness. And he’s had the season so far to set himself up for it. This weekend he stands at the threshold of CA wrestling immortality. A state championship. A chance to prove that greatness can come from anywhere, anyone. If they really want it. He really wants it. It’s his why. And it’s here now. He’s here now. Prepared. Whether you heard him coming or not.

I was able to speak with Alex briefly and learn a little more about the top seed at 132 pounds this weekend in Bakersfield.

So, I ask everyone, describe your start in the sport? Sometimes it’s a deep family history and sometimes it’s like you’re the first in your family to wrestle.

It’s not a deep family history, but my older brother was in it first and then I followed. And I was scared. But I learned quickly that I had to adapt and get tougher and over some years I was able to do that.

And did you feel pressure to succeed early on?

Not really, it was just something for us to do, to keep us busy. As I got more success and showed some potential then it was like ok we have to keep this going. So the pushing for more came once there was some success. I’d say when I got 3rd at Reno Worlds.

So, you compete for Central Catholic in Modesto, but I don’t think a lot of people nationally have heard of it. How would you describe the program?

I would say it’s a competitive but supportive environment. The people behind it care and it shows. So it’s like you look forward to training and buying in. We’re continuing to grow and I’m excited to see what we’ve already been able to do and can do in the future.

That’s cool, so you’re still an underclassman yourself but do you feel like a leader in the program?

I definitely feel like a leader here. But the main thing I want to show is for anyone in the room, or even younger kids who may want to come out, that anything is possible here. If your goal is to be good, you can be. If your goal is to be a state medalist, you can be. And hopefully I can be a state champ and show that that is also possible.

Speaking of that, last year you made it to the state tournament but came up just short of a medal. How was that experience for you, what did you learn?

Man, I was scared, I can’t lie. Or maybe not scared but anxious. It was a big stage. It was more weight management. Everything was new so I was learning as I went and it was a great experience even if I came up just short.

So how did that shape the goals you set for this year?

Well, I definitely don’t think it was my wrestling that held me back. It was more of everything else. Knowing what to expect. I think I can compete with anyone so my goals didn’t change. I want to be the top of the weight. No reason that I can’t get there.

And have you noticed any changes in yourself between last year and this one, have you seen growth in yourself?

Definitely. More so mentally and knowing that however hard I push myself, there’s another level I can go. So we really wanted to emphasize making practice harder than matches so the matches are a fun time. 

Hey, if it’s not fun, why do it? So, your biggest tests this year were both against Elijah Cortez from Gilroy. That’s a real, national caliber wrestler from a great program there. What was that first match up at Reno like and then the rematch at MidCals?

I think Reno was great. Obviously, you always want to win but at the same time it showed me that I’m right there and I felt like I had even more to give. As much as I thought I was already doing, I learned there’s even more to tap into. And I think I did that the next time and I feel really good about where I’m at.

So, results like that, you start to get a little more attention and maybe even higher expectations. Do you feel that, do you care about it?

Well, no one has higher expectations for me than I do for myself so that doesn’t change at all. It’s nice to be recognized for things you do so that’s cool, but none of it matters. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself and that I’m living up to my own belief in myself.

And as you look ahead to the end of the year, the state finals, the goals you talked about what do you need to do to make it all happen?

Well, just stay the course. The process we have has gotten some great results so it’s just to continue trusting my coaches and myself that I can do this. I’m built for this. And even with a big win, you can’t get comfortable. Anyone can do something once, maybe even get lucky. But can you do it again, and again, and be consistent? That’s the real challenge.

A challenge that it sounds like you’re up for and we’ll all get to see how it plays out in February.

Yes, sir.

Appreciate your time man and good luck this season and beyond that.

Thank you, I appreciate it.

Meet Todd Wightman

Based in Western PA. Right in the heart of WPIAL country, Todd brings an insider’s view from the country’s epicenter  of wrestling. He’s excited to build on the TKDWN tradition of starting with the story first. The athletes, the coaches, their families and supporters, there is no shortage of stories to tell. And Todd will bring his unique perspective to help us continue to deliver top notch content for the world’s greatest sport!