SUNSET WRESTLING: Cimarron’s Bonifaz continues to fight on, off mat

Cimarron-Memorial senior Jose Bonifaz lost his quarterfinal match in the Sunset Region tournament on Friday at Bonanza, and now has to work his way through the consolation bracket and capture third place in order to qualify for next week’s state tournament in Winnemucca.

But as disappointing as the loss was, the 126-pounder is happy just to be participating.

Bonifaz has lupus, which can affect any organ in the body and may cause a wide range of symptoms. He was diagnosed at age 12.

And about a month ago, when things were going well for him during the regular season, he began feeling pain in his knee. It eventually became excruciating, to the point he wasn’t able to bear the discomfort.

So when doctors saw his protein count was high, they ordered him not to wrestle for a few weeks as a precautionary measure to avoid kidney failure. The remainder of his final campaign with the Spartans was in jeopardy.

“I didn’t want to listen, I was going to take ibuprofen and finish the season,” Bonifaz said following his 11-8 quarterfinal loss Arbor View’s Lawrence Vigil. “So even though I wasn’t wrestling, I kept my weight down, I helped my brother with technique and I just stayed focus on wrestling anyway. I never got away from it.”

It’s that type of commitment that has helped Bonifaz overcome his illness, and most times, helps him forget he’s even stricken with the disease.

“His faith is so strong, concerning his condition, and he just keeps saying he’ll be okay,” said his mother, Dolores Herrera, who was skeptical about letting her son return to the mat this weekend. “His love and dedication the past three years, he just wanted this opportunity with this being his last year at Cimarron.

“He wanted to do the best he could do for the team. His love toward this sport made me convinced he deserves to do whatever he wants to do in life no matter what. He’s dedicated 100 percent of his life to school and sports, so it’s hard for me to say no when he’s put forth so much effort.”

Cimarron coach Mike Garcia said Bonifaz has been the prototypical student-athlete since arriving on campus, being the first one to practice and last one to leave.

At times, when the coaches think Bonifaz may be overdoing things, they have to shoo him from the room and tell him to shower and go home, so he doesn’t hurt himself.

“He’s just got a passion for wrestling; he just seems to enjoy it,” Garcia said. “I guarantee you this, he doesn’t get out of any practices or drilling unless he knows he shouldn’t. He won’t use his illness to stop his training. He’s going to do anything he can to be successful.”

Bonifaz is adamant to use the word “excuse” in his vocabulary.

“If anything has ever happened, I’ve never blamed lupus,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve looked at like, ‘I just have to work harder.’ Excuses don’t get you anywhere.”

He won’t be looking for any on Saturday, as he opens consolation-bracket action against Shadow Ridge’s Gabe Luna.

Bonifaz, who took second at regionals and went 1-2 at state last season, has to win four matches to capture third place, and a return to the state tournament.

“I’m going to take it one match at a time,” Bonifaz said. “There’s nothing I can do now except build myself back up. I just hope people don’t look at me because of lupus, and think it’s been a hindrance. I don’t like excuses. I don’t believe in them”

Shadow Ridge had 10 wrestlers move into the semifinals, while opening up a 62½-59 lead over Centennial, which sent nine to the semifinals.

Shadow Ridge’s Lucas Washington won two matches in the 145-pound bracket, as did the Mustangs’ 285-pounder Jarrit Leonard.

For Centennial, defending region and state champion Hunter Brown won his only match of the night, pinning Cimarron-Memorial’s Christian Panoncillo. Tucker Edwards, a 132-pounder, used two wins to advance to the semifinals.

Arbor View sits at third with 55½ points, on the strength of opening-day victories by 120-pounder Tyler Ramos, Vigil (126) and Destry Talledo (152). Cimarron-Memorial is in fourth with 47½ points, followed by Bishop Gorman at 45 points.

Saturday’s matches resume at Bonanza, at 10 a.m., with championship matches expected to begin at 5:30 p.m.