Student wrestler gains life lessons

By S. Hennessy Machado Hidalgo

Wrestler Joshua Padilla is building a legacy of discipline and heart to pass on to other athletes as a high school wrestling coach.

Padilla, 19, placed eighth in the California Community College Athletics Association Regional tournament last season.

“Despite how an outside person may perceive (wrestling), it’s actually a 90% mental game and a 10% physical game,” Padilla said.

He said the mental part is about staying disciplined in diet, training and, especially, mindset.

“With negative thoughts, you have to acknowledge them and let them go. With positive thoughts, you keep them and hold on to them,” Padilla said.

He said his motivation to excel as a wrestler and an English major is to inspire younger wrestlers as a coach one day.

“I find that how one words themself can really bring something out of a person… It is crucial as a coach to inspire and constantly motivate the wrestlers, so that they can be the best they can be,” Padilla said.

His journey as a wrestler has been a character building one.

Padilla said he tore his meniscus while competing at the high school level, which adversely impacted his performance at the time.

He said this was soon followed by the COVID-19 shutdown which almost led him to quit wrestling once he became a college student.

Padilla said he decided to compete again in college because he hated the fact that he had not reached the level of success he could have while wrestling in high school.

“I was so disappointed in myself for not even getting far. I was embarrassed. I was resentful of myself in some aspects,” Padilla said.

“So that’s why I’m here now, to prove that I am someone to be proud of. I am someone who can put in the hard work. I am someone that deserves this.”

Padilla said next season, “I want to place higher at tournaments, I want to break my opponents quicker, and I want to be the best I could possibly be in all areas. No matter the situation or circumstances, I will do better and I will be great.”

He said consistency is key for mastering the art of a wrestling move.

“When you reach that point, it’s as if you’re flawless. There’s nothing that can stop you because you’re just constantly flowing. It’s like water, and if there’s something blocking it, it will go around,” Padilla said.

Padilla has adopted this approach to his whole life.

“I have fallen in love with being alive no matter the circumstances. I would rather feel the pain of discipline than the pain of regret,” Padilla said.

Padilla doesn’t improve his performance alone; he listens and builds from the support of teammates, coaches and his older brother. He embraces being a part of a community.

“If I was alone on this path, I honestly don’t know if I would enjoy wrestling as much as I do,” Padilla said.

He said the team is like a brotherhood with great chemistry. They hold each other accountable and motivated through their shared bond as friends and teammates.

“Those are the guys I want around when I’m going through tough times, moments when I’m exhausted and I don’t want to keep going,” Padilla said.

He said even though they don’t see each other as much during the off-season they’re still very close.

He said he’s proud of his teammates for the strides they’re making in and out of the wrestling room. One example is his teammate Devin Peries starting his own clothing brand “Go For the Kill.”

The previous season’s team captains, Peries and Troy Ortiz, said Padilla is one of the hardest workers in the wrestling room and a tough wrestler ready to put on a fight on the mat.

Head wrestling coach Miguel Soto said, “Padilla always has good energy. He always comes in pretty happy and ready to work.”

Assistant wrestling coach Jorge Guerrero said, “Padilla exemplifies what we’re trying to do. He represents what we’re trying to build here very well. He represents ELAC in a very good light.” 

Padilla recipricates his coaches’ sentiments toward him.

“I could not have asked for better coaches. I can count on them to be there for me when I need them to, and I will always reciprocate that respect that we have for each other. Both of my coaches want all of their wrestlers to succeed on and off the mat,” Padilla said.

An unofficial coach in Padilla’s athletic journey has been his older brother, Elijah. Elijah made it to the California Interscholastic Federation Masters tournament as a high school wrestler.

He said Elijah helps him with everything from dieting, to reviewing, films of his wrestling matches to life.

“My older brother is so wise with everything… Without him I would not be here at all. He created me. I am the product of his teachings, his mental game and his discipline,” Padilla said.

He said now he gets to be that same role model figure for his younger brother. 

Padilla has not only taken up the torch as his younger brother’s mentor, but also mentors the Norwalk High School wrestling team.

He said he’s been coaching at Norwalk High School since Summer 2022.

“As of right now, I am coaching at Norwalk High School. I am grateful for the opportunity they have given me to grow not only as a coach, but as a wrestler and 

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