By STEVE KRAH
A quiet leader continues to make noise for the Goshen High School wrestling program.
By scoring three first-period pins and earning a second straight Goshen Regional title GHS 106-pounder senior Fernando Flores heads to the Fort Wayne Semistate with a 2017-18 season record of 39-3.
At 145-26, “Nando” is No. 2 on Goshen’s all-time victory list.
Program No. 1 Andrew Yoder, who went 40-4 and placed fourth at the state meet as a senior in 1998, finished his prep mat career at 156-36.
“I like going out there and competing and having a good show for the fans,” says two-time Elkhart Sectional champion Flores when asked about his favorite part about wrestling. “I try to score as fast as I can.”
Fernando is one of Goshen’s captains. But his leadership style is not a vocal one.
“He’s a quiet kid,” says RedHawks head coach Jim Pickard. “But he leads by example. It’s his work ethic and what he produces.
“He does speak up when he needs to, but he’s really that example: ’Let’s do what Nando’s doing.’ You go and you work hard all the time.”
With its physicality, wrestling can be a grueling sport and pain is inevitable.
Flores pushes past it with plenty of support from his family, teammates and coaches.
Shawn Haley and Marquita Flores have four boys — Victor, Hector, Fernando and Ricky. Victor, a 152-pounder, was a Goshen senior in 2015, 126-pound Hector in 2016. Ricky, a 120-pounder, is younger than Fernando and was on the RedHawks team last season.
Fernando started his mat career as a sixth grader and chose wrestling over basketball when he got to high school. He was a semistate qualifier as a sophomore and a state qualifier as a junior.
Where has he improved most since last season?
“I’ve gotten better at getting off the bottom,” says Flores. “I’ve worked a lot on that. Last year, I had some trouble with it.
“I’ve also gotten more confident.”
That confidence has been helped by his coaches, including Jim Pickard and assistants Matt Katzer, Troy Pickard, Travis Pickard, Josh Abbs, Carl Creech, Gerardo Quiroz, Ben Schrock and Miguel Navarro, telling him that he could do well in the state tournament series if he performed to his capabilities.
“It was a whole experience for me,” says Flores of going to the State Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “I just want to go down there again.
What will it take to get back there?
“A lot of hard work and just putting in the time over the summer,” says Flores. “That’s a big difference for a lot of guys. Working over the summer, you get so much better coming into the next season.”
Some of Fernando’s favorite wrestlers are Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder and NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello — both at Ohio State University — and world and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs.
“I try to shoot a high crotch,” says Flores. “Tomasello is really good at those. I went to one of his camps. He showed us a whole bunch of set-ups and uses.”
Pickard has encouraged Flores to open up his offense in recent weeks.
“We don’t want to just do the same moves,” says Pickard, who is in his 25th season at Goshen. “Sooner or later, someone is going to shut down some of those moves. We’ve worked a little bit on some stuff he hasn’t done that much.
“You’ve got to have that second, third, fourth move.”
Pickard says moves must be practiced over and over again until they become muscle memory.
“We drill everyday and we drill multiple moves,” says Pickard. “We don’t just drill your favorite moves.
“You’ve got to be able to switch off. I tell kids all the time that by the time you think I should do this, it’s too late. You just have to do it.”
Pickard says Flores is beginning to get to the point where he can make the necessary on-the-fly changes.
“He’s getting there,” says Pickard. “It’s one-week-at-a-time, but I think he has what it takes to get where he wants to be .
“He’s more committed than most. And he’s put in the time needed. He’s believing in himself. He’s focused and determined.”
While Flores has been a 106-pounder at state tournament time the past four seasons, he has competed at 113 and 120 this season.
Flores is still contemplating his future plans. He says he is considering college or joining the U.S. Air Force.