An award worth wrestling for
During his first state wrestling competition three years ago, senior Fernando Barreto watched as his wrestling partner, Cheyenne Bowman, won her state title as a sophomore. Shedding tears of joy, Barreto would cherish this moment from the beginning of his career, inspiring him to work towards attaining his national title in wrestling.
In April of 2021, Barreto won the Most Outstanding Wrestler, or MVP, out of his club team at the NHSCA High School Nationals. His overall match time was the shortest and he was the most dominant wrestler.
“It feels good [to win] because I’ve been practicing harder,” Barreto said. “I’ve been picking up more days, picking up more times too. I’ve started practicing three times a day now. It just feels rewarding, all that time waking up early. It just feels like it’s paying off.”
Barreto has been wrestling for nine years, starting at the age of eight. His partners in wrestling, Alex Ramirez, Bowman and junior Elijah Flores, have helped Barreto gain the skills he has today by guiding him as a wrestler and giving him knowledge on the sport.
“I’ll always have to give props to my parents. Both my mom and dad have really helped me through everything with dieting and with the mental preparation and all of it,” Barreto said. “The tournament’s like payday, you work so hard for all this time, and then you go have fun and do what you want and you get rewarded in the end, so it’s just like that constant growth in the game.”
Barreto needs to be at a certain weight class two months before a competition. He finds it hard to meet the fine line between cutting too much weight and meeting the criteria to be in his weight class. If he is cutting weight, Barreto wakes up at 4 a.m. to run, then he goes to school.
“I can express myself in many ways and wrestling is one of those ways. I just feel comfortable and confident,” Barreto said. “I can add my own flavor to many things and I feel like wrestling has just become a part of me because of how long I’ve been doing it for. Wrestling is something that I use to let off steam, and whenever I feel down I just go and wrestle because it’s always something I could do.”
Barreto has two hours of wrestling practice at school. After school, Barreto has club practice from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.. His success in wrestling requires dedication of time. However, it is challenging at times for Barreto to manage time between wrestling and other aspects of his life.
“Wrestling is probably one of the hardest things that I added to my life but it’s paying off because I’m gonna get offers,” Barreto said. “But it’s just balancing [wrestling and school]. During the beginning of high school I really thought about quitting because it was just too much for me at one point. It was hard because I was like ‘Why am I training just to lose?’”
Barreto plans to continue wrestling through his years in college and possibly after in an open division. Barreto’s coach, who has been wrestling his entire life, has been an idol to him and has inspired Barreto to continue wrestling for as long as he can.
“Wrestling has always been something that I’ve had since I was a young age,” Barreto said. “The sport is always evolving and being part of that is something that I want to do and that’s why I just want to stick around and see the end goal.”
By Sajjan Sandhu, Scene editor
Photo courtesy of Fernando Barreto