By Melina Martinez
Currently ranked fifth in the state, East Los Angeles College wrestler Hugo Joshua Perez is competing for first place in the state championships.
The 5’ 4”, 20 year-old Husky is a contender in the 125-weight class, and is fulfilling a family tradition.
Following 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 father’s unspoken expression meant more than when he said, “I’m proud of you, son.”
He gave up his baseball and football jerseys by the time he completed his junior year to focus on his wrestling career instead.
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, practice with each other and 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. “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 said.
Perez bounced back his sophomore year in high school by ranking second out of 14 because of his extra effort. During his last two years in high school, Perez was ranked first place.
“Hugo is a very dedicated wrestler and he’s a die hard for the sport. He’s very talented and has the potential to do very big things in the wrestling community,” Avila said.
Perez’s biggest struggle in wrestling is cutting weight. By becoming lighter, 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 five pounds of water weight during each practice, by running hills, jumps roping and running four miles from his home in Alhambra to ELAC.
Other struggles Perez faces are juggling school and a daily life. The requirements to be eligible for ELAC’s wrestling team are to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA, be enrolled as a full-time student freshmen year and have 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. “It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it,” Perez said.
Despite the struggles, Perez continues to wrestle because he finds peace in this sport.
“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,” Perez said.
Perez plans to continue wrestling throughout his junior college years and potentially earn a full ride scholarship to San Francisco State University.
“He’s my team leader, so he’s a team player. He does better under pressure,” Head Coach Ralph Valle said.
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. “Hugo’s the best. He’s going to take State,” fellow wrestler Armando Rodriguez said.
With a background in Wing Chun Kung Fu, Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu, Perez has also entertained the thought of becoming a professional UFC fighter.
Perez plans to major in Administration of Justice and become a part of law enforcement.