Wrestling club looks to initiate full-fledged team

Kieron Williams / Staff Writer

In the Gold Room of the FIU Recreation Center, Alex Perez unrolled two large blue mats on to the wooden floor. Once they’ve covered a sizable area, he puts on his shoes—thin and blue with a strap of rubber around the toes for extra grip—and starts stretching. He’s the assistant coach of the FIU Wrestling Club, a new group on campus with less than a handful of members. Even with the small turnout, Perez is still excited to help students get back on the blue mats.

“A lot of kids come out of schools like Miami-Dade, and for the ones who have just wrestled locally it’s harder for them to leave everything and go up north to college for wrestling,” Perez said. “So for the kids that do want to continue it and stay at home for college, our club is a good way for them to travel the country, go to nationals in Texas, and possibly end up with a national championship while still staying home.”

Of the four members warming up together, two of them were coaches: Alex Perez and head coach Oraefo “Kuma” Brown. The other two members are brothers Justin and Julian Valhuerdi, who have been wrestling since high school.

“We started our sophomore year in high school and just never stopped,” Julian said. “By senior year we were both ranked at state level.”

Justin loves the effort it takes to succeed at wrestling.

“I’ve never been pushed so hard in my life, past my breaking point. I just want to keep pushing myself to the limit,” Justin said. “If people look at us from the outside, they’ll see us sweating, killing ourselves, and people would wonder why do you come back to that? And it’s just because we love it.”

“I like it because it’s way different from football or baseball,” Julian said. “There’s very little team elements to wrestling. When you’re out there on the mat, you’re on your own. But when you win that match, they raise your hand up, and you hear the audience cheer for you? It’s indescribable. You know you beat that guy because of your own effort.”

Alex Perez, who has been wrestling since grade five, says that wrestling is more than a sport. “Wrestling’s a lifestyle. It’s something you take with you,” Perez said. “It’s the hardest work you can do because you’re facing a guy one-on-one. I’ve seen football players who have trained the whole season, but when you put them on a wrestling mat they can’t last 2 minutes. The reason is because wrestling’s not just a sport. You have to work every day to be good at this.”

In his freshman year in high school, Julian was nearly expelled due to academic probation.

“When I started wrestling sophomore, it disciplined me,” Julian said. “I had to work harder so that I could stay and wrestle. And now I can even take that discipline off the mat and put it into jobs and to school. Studying super hard for a big test is the same as preparing for a big match.”

Looking into the future, the Valhuerdi brothers hope that more students will be drawn to the club so that they can take the club to the next level.

“One of the reasons I’m in the club is because of how great our coaches are,” Justin said. “I know there are a lot of wrestlers in this school that don’t know about the club and it would be awesome if we could make a team.”



About the Author

Kieron Williams
: I'm a Communications Arts major, and once I graduate I hope to use my degree and writing skills to become a screenwriter and novelist. I'm in my junior year at FIU, hoping to graduate by 2016, and I'm also Vice President of the FIU Film Initiative. I write for the News section, Life, and Opinion.

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