Wrestling state of mind

Beat the Streets PAL wrestler continues to rise above the competition on the mat

Team Garcia: Angel Garcia practices with Edwin Morales at Rizzo PAL Wrestling in Port Richmond. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

Angel Garcia has a simple request before he talks about his most recent success on the mat.
“Can I take him down real quick,” he asked with a sheepish grin, pointing to a fellow wrestler in “The Dungeon” at Rizzo PAL in Port Richmond.
In a couple of calculated moves, the 16-year-old sophomore at Mariana Bracetti Academy has his friend, quickly turned opponent in the confines of the padded space, pinned.
Angel hops up first, extending his hand to help the other wrestler to his feet.
“Nice work,” he said, before sauntering over to a corner in the room, still within reach of the action taking place in practice at Beat the Street’s Rizzo PAL Wrestling, where Angel took to the mat four years ago.
Despite spending more than half of his waking hours wrestling, his passion for the sport, like his skill, continues to expand.
Angel qualified for the PA Freestyle State Championship in 2016 and 2017.
He made history the second time around, becoming the first wrestler from Philadelphia to win both freestyle and Greco-Roman at the tournament.
That summer he took third in Greco-Roman in Fargo, North Dakota, at the Cadet and Junior National Championship, one of the most prestigious competitions nationwide.
Angel previously wrestled in the 152-weight class, but missed weight by two ounces at Fargo and began wrestling in the 160-weight class.
“Wrestling heavier means more experience because a lot of juniors and seniors wrestler at that weight. It’s really competitive,” he said. “I had to move quicker and think faster. I physically feel confident. And, I don’t have to cut weight. So, I don’t have to dehydrate myself or cut my meals.”
Moving up in weight has seemingly paid off.
Angel qualified for the 2018 UWW Cadet Pan American Championship in Guatemala City in May after defeating two-time PIAA State third-place finisher Gerrit Nijenhuis at the The U.S. Men’s Cadet Pan American Team Trials in early May.
Ed Schneider, head coach at PAL Wrestling, said the feat “was the second greatest accomplishment next to Joe Galasso winning the 2013 State Championship” for the program.
On June 2, Angel took third place at the World Team Trials in Akron, Ohio.
And, he was selected to the Junior National Dual Team and is currently competing in Tulsa Oklahoma, until June 23.
“It was mind-blowing because I’m going to be on a team with different state champions and there’s going to be a lot of good competition. People who are ranked number 1 are going to be there,” he said, visibly excited.
To prepare, Angel has continued his weekly grind.
Any given week, Angel will practice at PAL three times a week. He arrives at PAL on Tuesdays and Thursdays fresh off of practice at the Pennsylvania Olympic Regional Training Center.
Angel started training three times a week at the officially designated Olympic Training Center after winning bronze at Fargo, where he is able to train alongside wrestlers looking to take to the mat on the world’s largest stage.
Angel works with with Coach David James at PAL and Olympic medalist Coach Brandon Slay at PRTC on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“[Angel] is really easy to coach. He’s always trying to learn new moves. He listens,” James said. “He’s relatively inexperienced at Greco, but he’s had tremendous success.”
James points to Angel’s support system, “his whole family is a fantastic wrestling family. Big brother Leo helps, his younger brother Rey is up-and-coming also, and his parents are more supportive than anything I’ve ever seen.”
Aside from practice, Angel also points to family as being the backbone to success.
Older brother Leo and younger brother Reynaldo both wrestle at PAL, as does cousin and wrestling rising star Tatyana Ortiz. And, friends like fellow PAL wrestler, Edwin Morales, become family.
“Having all my family involved in the sport makes me feel at home,” said Angel, whose father constructed a wrestling room in the family’s house for working out and practicing. “I’m really happy to have them around because some kids don’t have that. I can have a serious practice with them and still have fun.”
Between family and practices, wrestling has become as essential as breathing to Angel.
“It takes time and dedication. If you want to become good at anything, you have to put all your focus on it,” he said. “You have to dream it and believe it and wake up the next day and say what you’re going to do. And, put 100 percent into it.”