Grappling his way to the top

 The referee raising Alecxis Lara's arm after he won his semi-finals match.

The referee raising Alecxis Lara's arm after he won his semi-finals match. "My dream finally came reality when I won in the semi-finals match to makie it to the state finals and earning All-American honors," Lara said. (Courtesy of Alecxis Lara)

Alecxis Lara is the recipient of Skyline College’s Garlington Award for his leadership academically and athletically.

Lara wrestled for Skyline College for two years and is now attending San Francisco State University on a scholarship he won for his wrestling talent.

The recipients will be awarded at the Student Recognition Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 18, in the Main Theatre at 4 p.m.

Not only has Lara won the award, but he is also ranked second in state for wrestling.

“Making it to the California State Finals is a dream that many wrestlers train for all their lives,” Lara said. “With all the luck that I’ve had with injuries my last few years, I never thought I would even place top eighth in the state. Last year I was eighth in state. I sat in the stands watching [the top wrestlers] and I looked at them as gods. To be in the finals, it’s the greatest high in my life so far.”

A committee of all the head coaches for each Skyline sport decides the winners of the award. The winners must meet some qualifications to even be considered for the Garlington. According to Andreas Wolf, Skyline’s Athletic Dean and Director, the student must be involved in Skyline’s sports for two years, has to show academic leadership, leadership on the team, and has to be transferring to a four-year university.

Wolf said that Lara is exactly the kind of person they want to honor for the Garlington Award.

“I’m fortunate enough to know Alecxis both as a person and as a student athlete, and he exemplifies what we look for,” Wolf said. “He’s a hard worker in the classroom and on the wrestling mat. He will be very successful in life.”

Wrestling Coach James Haddon appreciated Lara’s skill and ability to help lead the team.

“He’s a good student athlete and a great guy,” Haddon said. “Last year was a tough year in general. I had taken a year off so we got a late start, without Alecxis, it really would have been a mess.”

Lara lives in Gilroy and commuted to Skyline mainly because of the wrestling coaching staff.

“Skyline had more to offer me than another local community college,” Lara said. “I wanted to wrestle for Coach Haddon.”

Lara remembered a time in his last year of high school when he was barred from his last match.

“I was accused of biting,” Lara said. “Well, I did bite him, it was his fault though, it was my senior year of high school and I was disqualified from the state tournament for fighting.”

Lara’s demeanor on the wrestling mat does surprise some people because he is described as such a nice person.

“If you just look at him, you’d never really know he was a wrestler,” Wolf said. “You need a different type of disposition on the wrestling mat.”

Anthony Barr, a wrestler currently trying to get on Skyline’s team, and Eric Sorenson, Skyline wrestling alumni, both say that Lara completely deserves to win the Garlington Award because of his leadership skills and determination.

“He works really hard,” Barr said. “He tries to bring up the whole team with him.”

Lara’s hard work and training has paid off with his second in state title and scholarship, both things he did not think would happen.

“Before I started wrestling at the junior college level, I didn’t think I’d be such a big competitor,” Lara said. “I’ve been training for 10 years to be in the state finals. I couldn’t have done it without my coaches.”

Injuries have been a big obstacle that Lara has been able to overcome to achieve his dreams, but it has not been easy. He suffered a season-ending injury at his very first tournament at Skyline. The next year he suffered another injury pushing back his third in state ranking to eighth in state.

“I knew I deserved more,” Lara said. “This year on my first match of the state tournament, I suffered another injury where my opponent twisted and tore the ligaments on my right hand. I won that match but when doctors reviewed my hand they were going to throw me out of the tournament saying I was too hurt to wrestle. I spent three hours in the emergency room trying to get a clearance from the doctors so that they could allow me to wrestle the next day, and they finally did.”

Lara is guaranteed to be on the wrestling team at SF State because of his scholarship, but he is not guaranteed to be a starting player. He has to try out and compete with fellow wrestlers to get that starting position and he has confidence in his ability.

“I doubt anyone will beat me,” Lara said. “I know that sounds egotistical.”

Before winning the scholarship, Lara did try out for SF State’s wrestling team, but due to an ankle sprain a week before tryouts, he was cut. Now the SF State coach is impressed and he offered Lara huge scholarship money to come back to his team.

Lara said the award and his second place state record are huge accomplishments in his life, and Skyline College and his coaches helped him to achieve his success.

“There is no place I’d rather wrestle for than Skyline College,” Lara said. “I’m honored to be a part of Skyline’s wrestling program.”