State Champion: San Manuel’s Rodriguez makes dream a reality

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Gilbert Rodriguez. Photo by Vince Apuron.

  San Manuel freshman wrestler Gilbert Rodriguez made a 10-year-old dream come true at the 2018 Division IV State Wrestling Championships, which were held at the Prescott Valley Event Center on Feb. 9-10.

  Rodriguez, the top seed in the 106-lb weight class, pinned two opponents and majority decisioned another on his route to the championship match versus Austin Doom of Wickenburg.

  The Miners’ freshman picked up his 40th win of the season along with the Division IV State Championship following a 3 – 2 victory.

  “(Winning the state title) is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life,” Rodriguez told the San Manuel Miner. “I always wanted to be a state champion.”

San Manuel freshman Gilbert Rodriguez is declared state champion after defeating Austin Doom of Wickenburg in the final. Photo by Denise Fisher

  “It was one of my biggest goals when I was little,” he added. “I wanted to make it come true, so I just kept working nonstop.”

  Rodriguez’ work started as a four-year-old and continued through elementary school and junior high, when he wrestled as a 68-lb seventh-grader and won consecutive state championships in seventh and eighth grades.

  “It was worth getting up and putting in the work every day for the past 10 years,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t thank my dad enough for that. He pushed me to the point that I could compete with these other wrestlers and it was worth it. My dad made me the wrestler that I am and is the best coach I could ever ask for.”

  After making it look easy in his first three matches, Rodriguez refocused before his final match of the state tournament. It was a place he’d been before in junior high state tournaments and national tournaments in Idaho. He’d won at all of them. This match would be no different.

  “I was just thinking about what I needed to do,” he said. “My moves and my takedowns needed to all come together, and I just needed to focus on those things and myself.”

  “During the match, it was just me out there,” he added. “I didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I did what I had to do, and I thought I did great in the championship match.”

  Indeed, he did.

  Rodriguez finished his season at 40 – 1, the lone loss to Chris Lopez of Walden Grove, a Division III school.

  The San Manuel wrestling program has a rich history, one Rodriguez will forever be associated with. He acknowledged he didn’t do it alone, crediting his father, his family and others for his success.

  “I want to thank my family, everyone who supported me,” he said. “They are the people that drove me to practices, club wrestling, and always believed in me. I want them all to know that I am thinking about them when I’m on the mat.”

  Rodriguez’ preparation for next year is already under way.

  “I want to wrestle in the 120’s,” he said. “My training never stops, and I started working as soon as I returned home.”

  Perhaps Rodriguez has another dream to fulfill.

  Two-time State Champion.

Andy Luberda (1056 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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