Cimarron-Memorial senior Nathaniel Garcia stood atop a podium at the renowned Peoria Wrestling Invitational two weekends ago after winning six consecutive matches and claiming the 195-pound bracket title in the Phoenix suburb.
Despite standing on a raised platform, Garcia wasn’t the tallest wrestler come picture time. But that didn’t matter as he again proved he belonged with the giants on the mat.
“He’s extremely short for his weight (class), but he’s just put together so well,” Cimarron coach Mike Garcia said. “He’s got a low center of gravity and really powerful thighs and hips. That’s part of what makes him so good. He’s hard to move and do much with. And he’s so quick.”
At 5 feet 7 inches tall, Nathaniel Garcia regularly is matched up with wrestlers who are 6 feet or taller and every bit of their weight. He is the undersized one, even more so when he’s competes in the 220-pound weight class, which he has done often this season.
In the Peoria Wrestling Invitational at 195 pounds, it was Blake Smith, a 6-3 senior from Liberty (Ariz.) who entered the match 37-0. In the past, Nathaniel Garcia admits he might have focused on the 8-inch height difference or Smith’s unblemished record, but that’s not the case anymore. He won a 3-1 decision in the final.
“I used to get in my own head,” Nathaniel Garcia said. “I wrestled a guy’s accomplishments, not the guy. Now I expect to go out and hammer guys.”
Because what Nathaniel Garcia lacks in height and length is made up for in work ethic and the sheer desire to win. And, lately, the hammering hasn’t stopped.
“He’s just a special person in every respect,” said Mike Garcia, who is no relation to Nathaniel. “Sometimes kids don’t realize how good they are, or how good they could be. I think he’s one of those.”
Nathaniel Garcia, 43-2 this season, hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent and will be looking to win his first state title in February. It’s a goal that might have seemed far-fetched four years ago, when he was a freshman and only wanted to play football.
“I didn’t really want to do wrestling, but I ended up falling in love with it,” Nathaniel Garcia said. “I like that it’s all on me. I can control the situation. If something goes wrong, I can fix it.”
Mike Garcia, who has been the freshman football coach for 19 seasons, used an always-dependable recruiting tactic to sway Nathaniel. He stressed wrestling would make him a better football player.
“Football and wrestling are such complementary sports,” Mike Garcia said. “They go so well together. It’s just a no-brainer to try to get a kid like him out for wrestling.”
It certainly paid off. Nathaniel Garcia is one of the top wrestlers in Southern Nevada, and the Spartans arguably are the Sunset Region’s top team.
Until recently, Nathaniel Garcia planned on joining the military, but wrestling has opened a new door.
“Easily, without a doubt,” Mike Garcia said of Nathaniel’s college potential. “He could even be a Division I wrestler. It depends on what he wants to do.”
Last year, Nathaniel Garcia finished second at the Division I state meet in the 182-pound weight class after losing a 12-5 decision to Shadow Ridge senior John Scarpati. In his final go-around, Garcia will be looking to add his name to a special wall inside the Cimarron wrestling room — one that displays the school’s previous state champions.
“You come in freshman year and see the wall and just want to be a part of that tradition,” Nathaniel Garcia said. “I was mad (about losing state last year), but I was glad at the jump I made. It made me hungry.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson