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AOW: Brawley grappler ‘masters' competition on way to state

February 26, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

During his run in the 103-pound weight class at the Masters tournament this weekend, Brawley Union High's Michael Soza hit a bump in the road.

Up by five points against San Pasqual's Kenny Ranck, Soza started taking some risks, unadvised risks, risks that eventually cost him as he ended up losing 10-9.

With the devastation of losing a match he could have won to a wrestler he had defeated earlier this season, Soza could have mailed in the rest of the competition.

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But instead, Soza pulled everything together by winning his next match and putting himself in the third-place match of the 103-pound division. The task at hand was simple: either win and advance to the state meet or go home.

Before the match Brawley coach Keith Smith pulled the 18-year-old senior aside to deliver a simple message.

"Believe in yourself," Smith said.

The message was short and simple, only three words, but the timing of his words may have made the difference in Soza's match as he went on to beat Enrique Solis of Fallbrook to qualify for state.

"My goal going in was to place in the top three and qualify for state," said Soza. "I was pretty nervous about the whole thing, especially that last match because if I didn't win, I wouldn't have qualified for state, so there was a lot of pressure."

With the win he and teammate David Villagran (114 pounds) will compete in the state tournament beginning Friday at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

"My goals for state are to finish in the top eight. But however I do, no matter where I finish, just getting there is worth it. And I know that all the hard work I put in paid off," said Soza.

What's most impressive about Soza's climb is this is only his third year wrestling and his first year of wrestling on the varsity level full time.

"When he was a sophomore you could kind of see something was there and last year, we could really see that he had a lot of potential," said Smith. "I think him not wrestling all year on the varsity may have hurt him a little at Masters. If he would've been up all last year, he would've known not to take some of the risks he did against (Ranck). But he's come along and I really think that wrestling has helped him with his self-image.

"He's become a very good wrestler and I think he has the potential to continue wrestling after high school," added Smith.

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