By JEREMY HINES
If Asa Garcia ever needed a nickname, perhaps The Fireman would be the most fitting.
Sure, the Avon junior’s favorite wrestling move is the fireman’s carry - but that’s not the only reason for the nickname. Firemen are some of the bravest men on the planet. While most sane people run in the opposite direction of a fire, firefighters run towards it. Garcia is one of those that run toward the fire.
A perfect example of this came a few weeks ago when Avon competed in the team state tournament. Garcia knew that he would have a gauntlet of top tier opponents in his path. He couldn’t wait for the challenge.
Garcia, the top ranked wrestler in an absolutely stacked 126 pound class this year, beat two returning state champions and a fourth place finisher in team state. He dropped last year’s 120 pound champ, Cayden Rooks (now ranked No. 2 at 126 pounds) 3-1. He beat last year’s 113 pound champ Alec Viduya (ranked No. 3 at 126) 7-5 and he also knocked off fifth ranked Colin Poynter, who finished fourth at 120 last year, 3-2.
“Asa was excited for the opportunity to get so many good matches at team state,” Avon coach Zach Errett said. “He was really looking at it as an opportunity more than anything. He knew he was going to get to wrestle and compete with some of the best kids in the state. That’s who he is. He looks to compete, always. I enjoy that about him. He wants to wrestle the best people.”
Garcia said he approached team state with the mentality that it was going to make him a better wrestler, no matter what happened.
“I knew the tournament would be tough,” Garcia said. “I’ve beaten those guys before, but I’ve also taken my lumps to some of them. You don’t know how well you’ll perform until you get out there and do it. Right now, wins and losses don’t matter anyway. If I took a loss or two, it wouldn’t have affected me. At the end of the day, the state tournament is when it really matters. Everything up until that point is practice.”
Garcia won state as a freshman at 106 pounds. He came into that tournament with six losses, but emerged as the champ after pinning Warren Central senior Keyuan Murphy in just under two minutes.
“Getting under the lights is an experience that’s tough to explain,” Garcia said. “You would think you’d be really nervous. But, everything just shuts down and you probably wrestle the best you’ve ever wrestled in your life.”
This year Garcia is making great strides because his approach to practicing has changed. Instead of practicing to get down to weight, he’s practicing to get better.
“Last year stung a little not winning (he placed third at 113),” Garcia said. “It was a tough season all around. I was cutting too much weight and it showed when things started to count. I was like 133 pounds during the week and I was cutting to 113. I wasn’t able to practice to get better, I was practicing to get the weight off. This year is much different. I’m able to maintain my weight and in practice I’m really able to focus on improving.”
One of the keys to Garcia’s wrestling success is his ability to learn and expand his arsenal.
“One of the things I really love about wrestling is when you get out of your comfort zone and do something you aren’t used to,” Garcia said. “It’s no secret my favorite move is the fireman’s carry - but I’ve been able to build a more elaborate offense because I worked on things I wasn’t comfortable doing. You have to work on them until you are comfortable with them.”
Garcia’s top priority this year is to get back under the lights and to claim his second state title.
“You think of getting under those lights all year long,” Garcia said. “You plan in your mind what your celebration would be like. You constantly think of how you want to wrestle and how you react when you win. But, all of that shuts down when you’re actually in the moment. You just have to let go and have fun.”
As a team, Avon breaks down after every practice with a chant of “State Champs.” Garcia knows that after that, it’s his turn to run toward the fire.