EVERETT – When I arrived at an Everett High School wrestling practice last week, Seagulls coach Brien Elliott pointed to the wrestlers who were laying down the mats.
He asked if I could spot Bryan Sanchez, the Everett wrestler who has one leg.
I glanced around the mats at Sequoia High School, where the Seagulls are practicing while their gym is remodeled. I looked at each and every wrestler walking around.
And I had absolutely no idea which one was Sanchez.
However, I have a feeling that, not long from now, everybody will know who Sanchez is.
Sanchez is a sophomore at Everett High School. He’s been on the wrestling team for about a year, and already he’s eyeing a big prize.
“My goal is to win state,” Sanchez said. “That’s my No. 1 goal right now.”
He works in practice with Everett captain Jessie Lopez. Lopez, a senior, was the 3A state champion in the 132-pound weight class last year.
Together, the two work on strategy and tactics for Sanchez.
“He wrestles down on one knee. A lot of guys do it but it’s still a little bit different,” Lopez said. “It’s pretty different, but it’s fun just trying to figure out what you can do differently.”
Watching the two work in practice, it’s obvious how hard Sanchez is working. He wraps his arms around Lopez’s lower body and just drives him to the ground.
And, with Sanchez already so low to the ground, he doesn’t give his opponent much to hold on to.
“I do the same moves (as other wrestlers) but adjust it a little bit so it fits me better,” said Sanchez, who wore a prosthetic leg while wrestling last year but is trying it without one this season. “It’s harder with the leg on because when I try to do stuff, it gets dragged behind. I thought if I (took) it off it’d be a lot easier.”
Sanchez said he doesn’t care if people know about his leg or not. It doesn’t keep him from working hard to succeed. Lopez said Sanchez is a little bit more on the quiet side, but will talk to anybody who asks him about his leg.
“If you ask him, he’ll tell you, but he’s not like, ‘Hey everybody look at me! I’ve only got one leg and I’m wrestling,’” Lopez said.
Elliott recalled a wrestler, Cosman Bishop, who graduated from Snohomish in 1996 and finished second in the 3A state tournament at 101 pounds.
Bishop had both his legs amputated at age 3.
“I’ve not seen something like this since Snohomish in the 90s. A kid named Cosmo took second in state with no legs,” Elliott said. “… I’m proud of (Sanchez). Most kids struggle out on the mat against another guy and use all the excuses they can in the world. He has to step out there without a leg and do the same thing everyone else does and he has no excuses. He manages to overcome.”
Sanchez models his wrestling style after Anthony Robles, who won an NCAA Division 1 championship last year with Arizona State. Robles also wrestles with one leg, and provides an example and role model for Sanchez, or really, anybody.
Robles seems to have inspired Sanchez, and all of his hard work has his teammates, family and coach taking notice.
“I would hope he keeps trying,” said Pablo Yao, Sanchez’s cousin who convinced him to join the wrestling team. “Wrestling is pushing him to do good in school. It’s keeping him healthy. He’s eating healthy. He’s living a healthier lifestyle.
“…When I see it, I think, ‘It’s just my cousin Bryan.’ He’s going out there to win. But with other people everyone looks. They’re in shock of how he’s going to do it. Is he going to win? Is he good? How are the other wrestlers going to wrestle against him?”
Sanchez said most opponents are “pretty nice.” However, there was one occurrence that he recalled, where he felt a little uncomfortable while on the mat. Not angry or upset, just “weird.”
“There was one guy who was sad about wrestling me. Kind of felt sorry for me,” Sanchez said. “While we were wrestling he said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ And all that. It got really weird. It was just, weird.”
Lopez said he thinks Sanchez will one day be able to accomplish his goal of winning a state championship. He thinks he has the work ethic and drive to keep getting better.
“He could really get there,” Lopez said. “It just depends on how hard he’s willing to work and what his personal goals are. If he’s willing to do it he could do it if he wanted.”
Admittedly, I don’t know much about wrestling, but I absolutely agree.