Victor Lopez has spent the past four years honing his wrestling skills at Poway High School, finding his strongest positions, upping his "feet game," taking on the challenge of following the path of a father who wrestled, too.
Now he heads out of high school, missing the championship trophy that slipped away two weeks ago, but recognized as the best wrestler in all of San Diego County.
Lopez, a 17-year-old PHS senior, was named the All-CIF Wrestler of the Year on Tuesday by a committee of coaches and media through the San Diego Hall of Champions. He and several wrestling teammates were also selected to the All-CIF first and second teams two weeks after coming in second place as a team in the state championships. Lopez, who entered the state tournament individually ranked in the top spot, finished in third.
Lopez talked to Patch on Tuesday about this latest wrestling honor, the pressure of being No. 1 and life lessons he's learned from his coach, Wayne Branstetter.
What does it mean for you to be named Wrestler of the Year?
It feels awesome, really. I never thought, even from my first year of wrestling, I never thought I'd be this good or [be at] this caliber of wrestling. So it feels really good to be Wrestler of the Year not knowing that I'd ever make it here.
Describe your performance in the state championship two weeks ago. What happened?
I only really had two good matches, which were the ones after the loss. When I went in there, I kind of went in there kind of hesitant, a little bit scared because I was the No. 1 guy; I was expected to win so there was a lot of pressure on me.
I was trying not to lose; I wasn't really trying to win, so I wrestled kind of cautious, conservative. I wasn't really shooting. I wasn't going after the guy. I wasn't taking risks trying to win the match. So I started doing that after my match I lost and I beat those guys easy. They weren't really a challenge, but I didn't start doing it until afterward which was bad.
It was definitely a lesson learned now.
What have you learned from Coach Branstetter?
I've learned quite a bit from him, not just wrestling. He's an old guy so he's had many experiences. ...He always emphasizes not doing drugs, picking your friends correctly, making good choices in life. I've learned not only how to wrestle but how to be a good person from him, how to be a good individual in this society.
He always says, 'Your best friends are always going to be your mom or your dad.' I know my parents really do care about me. They want the best for me. They really are my best friends.
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