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AOW: Wildcat grappler fulfills goal of qualifying for nationals

March 05, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

For three and a half years Brawley Union High School wrestler David Villagran has been working almost endlessly to fulfill his ultimate goal of competing in the national high school wrestling tournament.

He came close a few times, making it to the state tournament twice, once his freshman year and last year as a junior, but he never placed in the top eight. Until now.

At the state meet in Stockton on Saturday, all the work the 17-year-old senior put in finally paid off as he took eighth in the 114-pound class, qualifying for nationals.

"If I wouldn't have placed and gone on to nationals, I don't know, I probably wouldn't have been able to sleep," said Villagran, who was 4-3 in the state tournament. "This was my third time going and finally all the hard work paid off."


Things weren't easy, though, as he was put in a win-or-go-home match against Northview's Sammy Saunders. Not only was elimination on the line, so was the opportunity to go to nationals.

"That was probably one of my toughest matches. Everything was on that match. We're both seniors and whoever won that was going to qualify to go to nationals," said Villagran.

Villagran stepped up in the pressure situation and beat Saunders 8-4 to earn a trip to the nationals in Cleveland the first week in April.

After finally achieving his goal of qualifying for nationals, Villagran has a new goal

"Getting that win and qualifying for nationals was a relief, but now I have something else to look forward to," he said. "I don't think anyone from here has ever placed at nationals, so that's my next goal."

While Villagran is the one on the mat and taking care of business, he said a lot of what he has accomplished should be credited to Brawley coach Keith Smith.

"All of this is on Coach Smith. He's brought us up, built this program and has gotten us to this point. He deserves a lot of the credit for this whole thing," said Villagran. "I guess making it to nationals is kind of like giving back to Coach Smith."

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