In order to understand just how much Cascade High School senior David Garcia thinks of his wrestling coach, you need look no further than the decision he and his family made before this school year began.
For nearly half of Garcia’s life, Cascade head coach Brooklyn Obregon has been Garcia’s club coach.
That wasn’t good enough for Garcia.
After breaking his ankle a year ago in January while attending Kamiak and missing the rest of the wrestling season, Garcia asked his parents something most kids would never think to ask — to move so that he could attend Cascade.
“I kind of begged them,” Garcia said.
Garcia explained several factors to his parents while pleading his case. He wanted to wrestle for Obregon. He believed he would be challenged more in practice at Cascade. But most importantly, he just wasn’t happy at Kamiak.
“I told them how at Kamiak I didn’t feel right,” Garcia said. “I had a lot of friends at (Cascade) so when I moved over here my grades went up higher and I felt right.”
Garcia wasn’t the only one thrilled by his parents’ decision.
“I feel blessed to have a young man that is as talented as he is feel that he wanted to wrestle for me,” Obregon said.
This weekend Garcia has a chance to make his family’s decision pay off by winning his first state championship. He goes into Mat Classic as the state’s No. 2-ranked 120-pounder in Class 4A.
In order to accomplish his championship goal, Garcia has to perform better against his toughest opposition. He enters the state meet with a 36-3 record, but two of those losses have come against Yelm’s Darren Harris, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in Garcia’s weight class.
Harris pinned Garcia in both meetings this season, but Garcia is excited by the idea of getting an opportunity to face him one last time.
“I’m really confident because I know how he wrestles,” Garcia said. “I just know him. I know his style and I’m just ready for him.”
In the first match against Harris, Garcia got caught with his head down and Harris capitalized with his signature move, the three-quarter stack. Garcia was pinned in less than a minute.
“There’s not a lot of getting out of that,” Obregon said. “It’s something that (Harris) is pretty renowned for. Unfortunately we fell victim to it.”
In the second match, Obregon said Garcia was the aggressor. He got out of the first period trailing just 2-0 and had several opportunities to score, but when Harris got the opportunity, he put the three-quarter stack on Garcia again and scored a pin.
“We’ve learned a little bit each match,” Obregon said. “By the second time we had not only improved enough to not only be the only athlete to get out of the first period against Mr. Harris, but (Garcia) was definitely on the verge of scoring many times. Even in a loss we learned a lot.”
The biggest lesson Garcia has learned — don’t lower the head.
“Coach always taught me, everything I do keep my head up high,” Garcia said. “With school, work and anything I do, even wrestling. When I wrestled him I kept my head low and that’s where he caught me with that move.”
Harris and Garcia are on opposite sides of the bracket meaning they would most likely only face each other for the state championship, something that is just fine with Garcia.
“He’s fearless and he’s not one of those that gets worried that he’s beaten him twice,” Obregon said. “He invites the challenge.”
Garcia has come a long way since he began wrestling for Obregon with the USA Wrestling Club in middle school. In those days, wins were few and far between, but with hard work and dedication, Garcia has made steady improvements and the wins started to come more frequently.
In his sophomore season at Kamiak, things really came together for Garcia. At 106 pounds he finished third in state.
“He has gone from a less confident young man to working throughout the summer year in and year out,” Obregon said. “He’s gotten, not only more confident, but so much incredibly more talented. His hard work is so apparent.”
Garcia’s work ethic has not only made him a standout wrestler, but is likely to help him as he pursues his dream of becoming a police officer. Though he isn’t sure what branch, Garcia plans to join the military after high school and hopes to wrestle as well. Obregon and Garcia both said that a background in wrestling and military experience should help Garcia in his chosen career path.
“Wrestling has helped me a lot mentally knowing that I could get through anything,” Garcia said. “Anything that stands in my way, I can blast through it because I know I’m that tough.”
Obregon said he believes his athletes can accomplish anything if they put their minds to it. That kind of dedication has helped Garcia transform from someone who struggled to even win a match to one of the best wrestlers in the state.
“Wrestling is all about teaching life’s lessons,” Obregon said. “Hard work, perseverance and desire to accomplish something is something that is achievable as long as you keep plugging away. If you do that, there is nothing that can’t be achieved if you work hard enough for it. I think that’s one of life’s best lessons.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.