Champ own worst critic

Most athletes thank their haters for telling them they can’t accomplish a certain goal, for the motivation toward accomplishing the objective.

For Cimarron-Memorial senior wrestler Angel Laurente, he presents his own mental anguish before a big match.

“I underestimate myself a lot, that’s how I usually win,” said Laurente, who won the 126-pound state title last season. “It works for me; I tell myself I can’t do it.”

Unfortunately for most of his opponents during a stellar career for the Spartans, he’s quite capable of doing it and will be looking to continue to do so this weekend at the Sunset Region Wrestling Tournament at Centennial. Laurente, 104-22 in three years as a varsity wrestler, lost in last year’s 126-pound region final to Spring Valley’s Eduardo Penha. So even though he won the state championship, his immediate goal is to avenge that loss.

“I want to win regionals this year, and I actually wanted Penha again,” Laurente said. “I wanted to wrestle him again, but he’s staying at 138s.”

That’s pride talking, and given the school and coaches he represents, it comes as no surprise. Laurente falls in line with a long list of Spartans wrestlers who have placed at state, and he has etched his name on Cimarron’s Wall of Fame as one of 38 individual state champions.

“I think he’s grown to notice the tradition of wearing the silver and maroon,” said Cimarron co-head coach Eugene Harris, who won state titles for the Spartans in 1996 and 1997. “I think it was hard for him to make the connection at first, but now he has pride in it. He’s technically sound and … he packs so much punch in a little frame, it’s impressive.”

Co-coach Mike Garcia, who coached Harris at Cimarron, said Laurente now understands the tradition of being a Spartans wrestler much better than most of the kids he has coached simply because he has bought into the philosophy of the program.

“He’s seen the history, and he knows the way we run our program,” Garcia said. “He’s one of the meaner kids, for lack of a better term, that we’ve had in this program. He’s just mean, he’s physical and he likes to beat people up. And he does it legally. He doesn’t do anything that’s not supposed to be done; it’s all by the rules. He’s just physical about doing what he’s supposed to do.”

Laurente, who came into the season fresh off arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, said he prepared for the postseason last year by stepping out of practice and heading to the track to sprint three miles, and then would head home to run 13 miles, simply to build up his stamina.

Now, after undergoing surgery, most of his work is being done in the wrestling room. He says he still does some running — “just to prove myself wrong, that I can do it, because I’m my biggest critic” — but with this being his final year, he’s working extra hard in the room to win his first region title.

“I push myself when I tell myself I can’t do it,” Laurente said. “Usually I tell myself, ‘You’re not even going to be able to finish this last sprint, you can’t even get this last two minutes.’

Then I have another voice telling me, ‘Screw what you say, I’m going to do what I want to do.’ And that’s just how it happens.”