Austin Almaguer is a prime example of getting out of life what you put into it.
The Kamiakin sophomore, who practices three times a day during most of the wrestling season, picked up his second district title last Saturday and is on a quest for his first regional title this weekend at the 3A regional tournament at Everett High School.
“He has such a passion for the sport,” Kamiakin coach Jordan Anderson said. “He’s been a leader since he stepped in the room as a freshman. His work ethic is contagious. This season he has been a real vocal leader in the room, and that’s what we need from him.”
The regional tournament, which features the Mid-Columbia Conference and the 12 WESCO North and South teams, will begin at 5 p.m. Friday with the first two rounds. Action resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Braves will take 14 wrestlers to regionals, while Southridge has 12 and Kennewick two. The top four in each weight class will advance to state.
Almaguer’s hard work has paid off to the tune of a 37-3 record this season. He last lost to Blake Haney of Mt. Spokane (3-2 in overtime) at the Dream Duals on Jan. 21. He has won his past seven matches — five by pin. He has 18 pins, five major decisions and four technical falls to his credit, and is ranked second in the state behind David Woo of Bonney Lake.
He won tournament titles at Bob Mars, the Mac-Hi Invite and Winter Cup to go with his district crown. He was second at Inland Empire and third at Gut Check.
“He’s on the mat five times as much as everyone else, with practices, camps and tournaments,” Anderson said. “I wish I had more kids wrestling 300 days a year and wrestling in Fargo (N.D. at nationals). We are lucky to have him in the room. Guys hate wrestling him, but they know it makes them better.”
Almaguer got pinned by David Gentz of South Kitsap at Gut Check in early January. He said he used the match as a learning experience.
“I underestimated him,” Almaguer said. “That opened my mind. I can’t look past a kid.”
Almaguer’s love of wrestling didn’t happen overnight. He’s been on the mat since he was 4 years old, and had a top-notch sparring partner for years in former Kamiakin standout Riley Gurr, who moved to Montana over the summer.
Gurr is gone, but Almaguer is making sure that the drive for excellence in the Braves’ room remains alive.
“It’s different without him,” Almaguer said. “Everyone misses him. He was a leader. I can’t stop because he is gone; I have to keep getting better. Riley always made the most out of practice. I have to set the pace and be the motivator in the room. I like to stay positive and work my hardest in practice. If I work hard, so do they.”
Almaguer credits Jesus Ramos (126), Rece Quintana (138) and Joey Chavez (132) for helping him get ready for what lies ahead every week.
“They push me every day,” Almaguer said. “Every match, every tournament, win or lose, I’m always looking for some way to get better. Especially since I have the mindset to win a state title.”
Almaguer also has taken the leap from 106 pounds, where he placed third at state last year, to 120 pounds.
The hardest part of the bump up has been wrestling guys who are a little stronger, but he said he’s got it figured out after summers of wrestling up a weight class or two, and tangling with some of the best wrestlers Eastern Washington has to offer with the Victory Wrestling Club in Granger.
“I have always wrestled up,” he said. “Last year, I went to nationals at 113. I go to camps and wrestle bigger kids.”
And, he might not last long at 120.
“I walk around 130 or 132,” he said. “Getting to 120 is still a chore for me. It’s mostly water weight, so I back off the carbs — those soak up the water. I eat more fruit, eggs and a little meat, and drink water to flush it out.”
Almaguer eats, sleeps and breathes wrestling, but once regionals — and hopefully state — are over, he’s heading across the street from school for lunch at El Fat Cat Grill.
“I haven’t had that in 2 1/2 month’s,” he said.
He’s earned it.