Sports Person of the Week
Garcia Walks Off the Mat as an All-Time Grappler
Victor Garcia won back-to-back SCC titles in the 113-pound division for the East Haven wrestling team and finished his career No. 2 on the program’s all-time wins list with 124 victories. (Photo courtesy of Victor Garcia )
Victor Garcia wrapped up a stellar career on the wrestling mat by saving his best season for last. Victor finished with a record of 43-4 for East Haven wrestling team as a senior this winter. He also won his second straight title in the 113-pound division at the Southern Connecticut Conference Championship, followed by a third-place performance at the Class M State Championship.
“The main thing for me when it comes to wrestling, I treat every match like it’s the last match of my career. I wanted to wrestle every match like it was a state title match,” says Victor. “It’s unfortunate I didn’t win a state title, but any time I was wrestling someone—whether they were a first-time wrestler or had five years of experience—I wrestled like it was the last time I’d ever step on the mat, so I gave it my all.”
Victor finished with a career record of 124-33 after competing in the 106-pound division his first two years and then moving up to 113 in his junior season. Victor’s 124 victories rank second in the history of the East Haven wrestling program. Cody Bias, a 2009 graduate, earned 132 career wins for the Yellowjackets.
“I wish it was higher,” Victor says. “I wish it was something more memorable, but it’s still a cool accolade.”
Victor had a big physical advantage over his adversaries while wrestling in the 113-pound division. Head Coach Mark Tolla says that Victor used both speed and strength to his benefit.
“When you’re near 18 years old at 113 pounds, that is a daunting task for the kids you’re going to wrestle. Most of those guys are still developing, and that was a huge advantage for him,” Tolla says. “Physically, he was very strong. The mixture of strength and athleticism allowed him to be quite successful.”
Victor took the SCC crown by notching a 19-4 major decision victory versus Guilford’s Ed Barlage in the title bout. Then at the Class M meet, Victor earned third place with a 9-7 decision over Zachary Johns of Suffield-Windsor Locks in the consolation final. He went on to win a match at the State Open. Prior to those meets, Victor posted a record of 35-1 during a regular season that saw him help the Easties have one of their best campaigns in recent memory.
“I did wrestling to be the best, not to be an average kid,” says Victor. “I fell short of my goals, unfortunately, but I put my all into wrestling, and it gave me a lot back. I’m a better person for it.”
Victor says that his tenure with East Haven wrestling was special not only because of his success, but also because of all the support that he received from his teammates and coaches. Victor appreciates how grappling for the Yellowjackets had a positive impact on his high school experience.
“Having wrestling to go to—and having coaches, teammates, and people in my life I needed—changed me for the better,” Victor says. “Without coach Tolla, [assistant] coach [Lou] Rivellini, or my teammates, I wouldn’t be half as successful as I am now. Wrestling changed my entire life.”
With his high school career complete, Victor is exploring his options to continue competing in the battlefield arena. Victor says that he’d like to get more involved in martial arts and potentially fight at a higher level.
“I want to start doing jiu-jitsu. I’ve always loved martial arts. When I was younger, I did karate and boxing and, once I got into wrestling, I got really into martial arts,” says Victor. “Having wrestling in my arsenal, I really want to start doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, get back into karate, get into striking, and start boxing. I feel passionate about wrestling, and I feel combat sports is what I was made for.”