COSTA MESA, CA. – Months have passed since Gabriel Cortez, a freshman out of Northview High in Covina was putting the smackdown on the high school competition. Now, the 141-pound starter for Vanguard University, Cortez hopes to keep his winning ways in his first collegiate season.
Not every one that competes in the sport garners the attention of college coaches. Only the most talented and notable freshmen do, and very few are actually able to love up to the hype.
Cortez came to Vanguard with a high pedigree and has the tools to live up to the hype and turn into the Lions, next superstar.
As mentioned, Cortez attended Northview High, a school well known for its wrestling in Southern California. They have won many CIF Dual and Team championships. Individually, Cortez became just the second Viking grappler to become a four-time state qualifier, Vanguard head coach Caleb Flores, also a Northview alumnus was the first one to do so. Cortez's resume includes a plethora of individual and team accolades and championships, including being a state place winner in 2018.
After many options from Division I, II, and NAIA schools, Cortez decided to commit to Vanguard University due to the program’s coaching and culture as big factors in attracting him to the Lions.
“I feel like the coaching staff here really cares about the individual,” Cortez said. “They all really want to help me max out my potential as a person, not just as a wrestler.”
Coming in as a very talented freshman, Cortez has very high expectations for himself this season, but that does not stop him from striving to improve his game. He keeps a list of notes on technical aspects of his game that he needs to work on and practices them daily.
“I’m looking to win a national title, but I think what’s more important is if I can measure my progress throughout this year,” Cortez said. “If I can really grow and develop this year, I feel like that would be a win for me.”
Cortez also has strong aspirations for the team this year. He hopes the group can create a culture of camaraderie and lifting each other up, which will only reinforce the talent it puts on the floor.
Despite just entering the college atmosphere, Cortez feels comfortable when he’s on the mat. He finished Lion’s opening tournament at the Menlo Open with a 3-2 record, placing fourth overall at 141 pounds.
At the end of the day for Cortez, it’s about having fun.
“As long as I’m scoring points, having fun, and I’m entertaining, that makes me happy,” he said.
Vanguard’s next tournament is the Milestone High Collegiate Open on Nov. 16 at Embry-Riddle University, where Cortez hopes to build on what’s shaping up to be a standout career.