Wrestling helps athlete overcome struggles

IN THE ZONE-- East Los Angeles College wrestler Omar Ochoa focuses on his upcoming match this weekend. As preparation for every match, Ochoa visualizes his moves and plans before wrestling. CN/DANNY VASQUEZ
IN THE ZONE– East Los Angeles College wrestler Omar Ochoa focuses on his upcoming match this weekend. As preparation for every match, Ochoa visualizes his moves and plans before wrestling. CN/DANNY VASQUEZ

By Liliana Marquez

Wrestling is considered one of the oldest forms of combat and the most ancient Olympic sport, but for Omar Ochoa Jr. it goes beyond that.

Ochoa, 19, is currently in his second year as part of the East Los Angeles College wrestling team where he wrestles at the 149-pound weight class. Wrestling has helped him cope with anger, frustration, insecurity and loss.

When Ochoa was in middle school, he struggled and had a difficult time, just like many other kids.

“Before wrestling I would just feel sorry for myself. You can put yourself in a pity party, but wrestling kind of helps you to realize that is only you and you have to worry about yourself and move yourself forward,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa’s mother, Eileen Ochoa, also remembers the difficult times her son faced. “When he was about seven, he went through a hard time because he was chubby and his classmates made fun of him, but wrestling helped him to let out that anger and frustration,” Eileen Ochoa said.

Ochoa discovered that wrestling was the sport for him. After playing football and baseball, he wanted to try something new. “I started when I was in eighth grade and then I went to St. John Bosco High School which is a school with just pure athletics.

“My dad and all his brothers had wrestled, so I decided to try it out. I really liked the sport, but I didn’t get really into it until I was a sophomore,” Ochoa said.

It was during his freshman year in high school when Ochoa suffered the loss of his grandmother from her mother’s side, Rosemary Gonzales. This has been one of the most difficult moments in his life and wrestling also helped him cope with it.

“She (Ochoa’s grandmother) was divorced and he was her emotional support. She was very close to him. When she got sick, he took care of her and motivated her. Her passing away was very hard for him,” Eileen Ochoa said.

“My grandmother dying really woke me up about life in general. It was so shocking. She was like my second mom and when she died, my eyes opened.

“Life is very quick and you can’t just take it for granted. You have to appreciate everything you have in your life,” Ochoa said.

Wrestling also helped him overcome the greatest obstacle he has encountered in life so far, which is having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Having ADHD and not being able to focus has been a big obstacle. Also, being a little dyslexic. I never figured out my lefts and rights. It was always a little bit difficult. I am really glad, especially since I have ADHD, that I chose wrestling because without it, I don’t know what I would do,” Ochoa said.

Both of Ochoa’s parents attended ELAC. When Ochoa was born, they were still taking classes here. His mother was in the nursing program, while his father was studying to be a counselor.

The memories about those years and his childhood still put a smile on his face.

“My childhood was good. My parents were awesome. I wasn’t an easy child. I have ADHD, so it was a struggle because I could never sit down, never focus and stuff,” Ochoa said.

His father, Omar Ochoa Sr., said that Ochoa was a very energetic kid who was kind hearted and warm toward others. “He has always been such a curious, intriguing child. As a child everyone wanted him around,” Omar Ochoa Sr., said.

It was precisely as a kid, when Ochoa developed his love for his major, engineering.

“As a kid I would always try to invent and design things on my own. My parents hated it though because I always broke their things and tools with my ideas,” Ochoa said.

For him, engineering is interesting and  he sees it as a challenge.

“It’s kind of like a puzzle where you are always trying to put things together,” Ochoa said.

After he finished high school, where he wrestled for four years, Ochoa transferred to the University of California, Merced.About a week after school started, Ochoa decided to leave and come to ELAC to pursue his passion  for wrestling.

“The school was good, but it just wasn’t for me. I still wanted to pursue wrestling and I felt that if I stayed at Merced, I would later have regrets of not being able to pursue my wrestling dream,” Ochoa said.

During his first year as part of the ELAC wrestling team, Ochoa placed sixth in the 2012 South Regional Championships.

Despite being busy, his parents always take the time to support Ochoa during his wrestling matches.

“My dad is my No. 1 coach. I could never have a bad match where he doesn’t know where I messed up. He can look at me before a match and tell me whether I am ready to go or not and so can my mom,” Ochoa said.

His father said that he enjoys seeing his son prepare for his matches, and watching the outcomes as he gets his hand raised. He also said that he is a perfectionist coach.

“I just don’t have any room for mistakes as a coach because as an athlete myself I do not allow me to get away with anything. As a coach you have to have exceptional standards and you have to exemplify them on and outside of the mat.

“Your effort comes from within, and allowing someone to out work you is not acceptable. Our bond comes from holding each other accountable, it may not always be high fives, but it will always be honest,” Omar                   Ochoa Sr. said.

Ochoa also said that having his family at his matches can be stressful and that one of his fears is to let his father down.

“We talk all the time. He says I can never do that, but I always want to do more. His time is very valuable and I want to show him that I appreciate him giving it to me,” Ochoa said.

ELAC’s wrestling Head Coach, Ralph Valle, said that as of right now he is not happy with Ochoa’s performance. He also said that Ochoa has been putting a lot of pressure on himself.

“He is very talented, very smart. He is a hard worker. He has all the qualities that any athlete and coach would want. He’s got everything he needs. Competition wise, he needs to be able to take it to the match and wrestle,” Valle said.

Ochoa has two younger brothers, Adrian Ochoa, 14, who is currently attending St. John Bosco and is part of the football team and Joseph, 11, who also wrestles. His parents recently adopted Ochoa’s cousin Max Alvarez.

Ochoa’s main goals are to finish college and become an engineer. He wants to transfer to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo or California Baptist University to take his wrestling career to the next level.

In 10 years, Ochoa sees himself graduated, successful, and having no regrets. He knows that even if things don’t go the way he planned them to, his family will be there to support him on and off the mat.


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