Oakdale High School junior Nico Colunga continues to shine, even on the largest wrestling stage in America, The National High School Coaches Association Juniors Tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Colunga racked up a total of six victories during his quest to be the top grappler in the 113-pound weight class and came home from the event as a national champion. He scored impressive wins over the nation’s top high school wrestlers in his weight class, with all of his matches going the distance.
Prior to his departure, Colunga kept his training sessions the same as he did during the high school season.
“We didn’t change a thing in training. I ate the same and put in the same amount of work. Why mess with success,” he said. “The nerves set in as soon as I left the house, and I didn’t shake them until after my final match. It’s better than State in my opinion. You get to meet a variety of class act wrestlers and coaches.”
Colunga’s first victory came against Erik Pruszinski of New Jersey.
“He was funky, and lanky. I’ve never seen a wrestler like him before, other than myself. It was like wrestling a mirror,” Colunga recalled.
In his second bout, Colunga wrestled Virginia state champion, Anthony Monahan.
“Oddly enough, he was the easiest opponent I would face during this whole experience,” he noted.
Other opponents included Braxton Cooper of Wyoming.
“Cooper was the complete opposite of me. He was short and stocky, powerful,” said Colunga, who then took on New York’s Jay Albis.
“Much like Cooper, Albis and I were very different wrestlers. We have different styles and body types. He threw me on my hip and I felt a sharp pain but my conditioning came through and I wrestled through the pain and walked away with a victory,” Colunga explained.
Even with an injured hip, Colunga found himself in the finals; standing in his way was North Carolina’s Mitchel Langford.
“Absolute craziest match of my life, bar none,” said the OHS junior. “Langford took me down twice in the opening minutes of the match; I was down 4-1 heading into the final period.”
But Colunga scored some points in the final frame, ending with the decision in his favor.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever. This is by far at the top of my accomplishments in my high school wrestling career,” Colunga shared.
Although wrestling is often considered an individual sport, Colunga said he couldn’t have done it all by himself.
“God is my biggest inspiration. Without him, I’m nothing. I also wouldn’t be where I am today without Coach Steve Strange. I’ve been under his wing for about 10 years total and he deserves a lot of the credit,” said Colunga. “He molded me into what I am today. The Stevens family has been a large part of my success as well.”
He also pointed to the Machado-Ching family of Fitness Plus of Oakdale and his parents as being huge supporters.
“My wrestling inspiration is Olympian Jordan Burroughs. He is amazing. He never stops or quits,” Colunga added. “In fact, during my finals match, I kept thinking about his famous saying, ‘never stop and wrestle all six minutes’.”
His next goal is to capture a state championship. Colunga placed sixth in last month’s tournament in Bakersfield.
“A state title is what I have my eye on next. It would be a huge accomplishment,” he said.
As to be expected, there were a number of college scouts and coaches in attendance at the nationals, getting a good look at Colunga and other potential future college athletes.
Colunga’s teammate Logan Eaton also competed in Virginia Beach. Eaton captured fifth in his weight class.
“I am very proud of Logan,” Colunga shared. “He is one of my closest friends. I credit him as my inspiration as well.”