A Wrestler’s Journey to Success

By Melina Martinez

Hugo Joshua Perez is a wrestler fulfilling a family tradition by competing for first place in the state championship.

This 5’ 4”, 20-year-old East Los Angeles wrestler weighs 135 pounds and is currently ranked fifth in the state.

Following in his father’s and uncles’ footsteps, Perez has been wrestling since his freshman year at Alhambra High School. He knew he would succeed in this sport when he found out he made the varsity wrestling team his freshman year. He remembers the day his fathers’ unspoken expression said more than when he said, “I’m proud of you son.” Having wrestling as his passion, he gave up his baseball and football jerseys by the time he completed his junior year to focus on his wrestling career.

Wrestling has not always been easy for Perez. Perez’s biggest struggle is cutting weight. By cutting weight, Perez is able to compete in a lower weight division and is at an advantage because of his bigger frame. To lose the extra pounds, he sweats out a minimum of 5 pounds of water weight during practice, runs hills, jumps rope, and runs four miles from his Alhambra home to ELAC.

Other struggles Perez faces are juggling school and daily life. The requirement to be eligible for ELAC’s wrestling team is to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, be enrolled as a full-time student freshmen year, and a total of 24 units from the previous two semesters as a sophomore. Perez also has a part-time job at Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza in Pasadena as a delivery driver. He said, “It’s a tough job, but someone has gotta do it.”

As a high school freshman, he was ranked 14th out of 14 competitors. He used this as motivation and pushed himself hard at every practice. Outside of practice, Perez and his best friend, Abel Avila, would visit other wrestling gyms and practice with each other and sometimes students from competing high schools.

Avila was a great sparring partner because he outweighed Perez by 40 pounds, which gave Perez the advantage when competing in the 125-133 pound weight division.  They practiced take-downs and perfected their technique together. Perez said: “You have to know how to win. You can’t just go through the motions and expect to win; You’ll get your butt kicked.”

Perez came back his high school sophomore year and was ranked second out of 14 because of his extra effort. During his last two years in high school Perez was ranked first place. Avila said: “Hugo is a very dedicated wrestler and he’s a die hard for the sport. He lives his life around wrestling and he’s one athletic person. He’s very talented and has the potential to do very big things in the wrestling community.”

Despite the struggles, Perez continues to wrestle because he finds peace in this sport. He said: “I wouldn’t nearly be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for wrestling. Winning is 90 percent mental preparation. This sport kicks you down to build you up.”

He has experience in other martial art disciplines such as: Muay Thai, Wing Chung Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu.

Perez plans to continue wrestling throughout his junior college years and potentially earn a full ride scholarship to San Francisco State University. Head Coach Ralph Valle said: “He’s my team leader, so he’s a team player. He does better under pressure.” Unfortunately scouts do not attend wrestling matches, so he will have to get the attention of future coaches by earning a high rank in championships. Armando Rodriguez, a fellow wrestling partner, said: “Hugo’s the best. He’s going to take State.”

Looking up to past wrestling coaches, Perez plans to major in administration of justice and become a part of law enforcement. He has also entertained the thought of becoming a professional UFC fighter.

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