By DAN BERG
CAROL STREAM, IL – One can only feel the heartbeat of the sport of wrestling coursing through the veins of family Patriarch Jesse Gomez. The pride and love he exudes when talking about the connection that shapes an integral part of the Gomez family is compelling. That connection is wrestling. How it is woven in the family fabric like a fine silk is where we will start.
Reflecting on the Gomez family wrestling bloodline, Grandpa Jesse said this, “Yes, it goes a long way back and I’m just proud of my two sons, Hector (Austin Gomez’s father) and Joe who are both coaches. Joe (an uncle and brother-figure to Austin) is the assistant varsity wrestling coach here at Glenbard North HS. And of course Austin. What can I say about Austin? He’s unbelievable but still has a long way to go and we just look forward to seeing him and supporting him.”
Austin just helped lead GBN to an unprecedented 18th consecutive DuPage Valley Conference Wrestling Championship last Saturday. Head Coach Mark Hahn, who has been the Captain of the Panther ship for all 18 of the championships, had this to say about his junior wrestler, “He’s kind of a fun kid to have in the program. He’s very offensive minded, always going for points and never out of a match.”
Hahn continued, “He’s always finding a way to win. I don’t know how many times he trailed by a few points, like last year’s (IHSA 3A 113 class) championship (against Jason Renteria of OPRF) and he comes up big. He always finds a way to win and he’s a great leader too.”
When it’s mentioned Austin is only a junior, Hahn laughed, “And we get him back!”
Austin’s wrestling body of work is spectacular in its sheer volume. Here are some facts:
● IHSA 3A 3rd place finish at 113 in 2014
● IHSA 3A State Champion at 113 in 2015
● Cadet Pan American Championships Outstanding Wrestler in Freestyle and Greco-Roman in 2015
● 3 Time Fargo National Champion in Freestyle and Greco Roman
● Ranked nationally @ #4 at 126 by InterMat
● Ranked nationally @ #5 at 126 by Flowrestling
● Ranked #1 in Illinois at 126 by Illinois Matmen
● 31-1 record this year (2015-16)
● Overall high school record of 130-6
Pretty nice stuff!
Tony LiFonti, who is an assistant coach and GBN/DVC wrestling expert, has gotten an up close and personal view of Austin’s development. LiFonti sat down between sessions Saturday and explained the “Austin Gomez Phenomenon.” He began, “Austin has been a fantastic leader in the locker room. Very good at bringing the guys together. Very good at being a ‘High Level’ wrestler. He works well as a partner and as an individual trying to attain his goals.”
LiFonti continued, “On the mat he is electric, I mean he has an offense from any position. I think what makes him so good or dangerous, whatever you want to call it, is he has no fear because he has so much confidence in his abilities. His father, Hector, and his Uncle Joe get tons of credit for making him work so hard and you see that when he wrestles.”
On Austin’s leadership, LiFonti said this, “He is a mixture of a great, strong leader and for his age, a phenomenal person. He is a typical Gomez. What I mean by that is he’s a hard-nosed kid and he wins.”
Austin Gomez was raised with a wrestling pedigree without equal, he looks back, “Growing up just watching Joe when he was in high school, I would wear a little yellow headgear. I was born to be like him. He was my mentor growing up. He pushed me every day to be the best I can be and he’s one of the main parts of my success.”
A common theme that runs through the Gomez family is their toughness. Austin pointed that out, “Yeah, it’s the only way I can get better. My family is always pushing me, even my sisters. They wrestle and they’re always pushing me. They try to ‘One-Up’ me, so I gotta ‘One-Up’ them.”
Austin comes from a very close and tight knit family. Austin explains, “My family is a great support system. They travel with me all over the country in the offseason. That’s why I work so hard.” On his wrestling style, he adds, “I like to go out there loose and go with the flow. If I put them in a position I want, I’m gonna score points and win.”
As Austin’s talents became self-evident and his future was very bright, colleges began to take notice. The recruiting started in earnest this past summer and Austin was coveted by some of the ‘Big Boys’: The Ohio State University, Penn State University, Arizona State University, University of Michigan and Iowa State University. Iowa State was considered a long shot until Austin met Cyclone Head Coach Kevin Jackson (4 time All-American, three years at LSU and his final year at Iowa State) at a coaching clinic. Jackson, who was also a 2 time World Champion and an Olympic Gold Medal winner, along with Cyclone assistant coach Travis Paulson, sold Austin on becoming a Cyclone.
When asked to explain his decision to go to Ames, Austin said this, “Why? Because of Kevin Jackson. He’s the greatest coach in the country in my opinion. When I met him he wanted me to be an Olympic champion. He said if I come to Iowa State I WILL be an Olympic champion!”
Iowa State has a great wrestling tradition and Austin was impressed, “The facilities there are outstanding. I have Angel Escobedo (Volunteer Coach) to work with every day. My goals are to finish high school, win some NCAA championships, some World and Olympic championships.”
Pretty lofty dreams to say the least but knowing the Gomez wrestling lineage, I certainly would not bet against Austin Gomez.