By John Philip Wyllie
A year ago, Bonita Vista High School’s Gabe Ruz Jr. had to sit out his junior season of wrestling due to a knee injury, but this year the powerful 145 pounder was back on the mats compiling a perfect league record while going 28-5 overall. His three victories last Saturday at Otay Ranch High School made him the lone Baron to secure a Mesa League title. This weekend, Ruz will compete against the county’s best in an effort to grab one of the six coveted slots that will advance him to the Masters Tournament.
Looking at the competition awaiting him, Ruz said, “So far, I have only wrestled one guy that I thought was very tough, a guy from Mira Mesa. I lost to him 1-0 earlier this season in a tournament, but hopefully I will get another shot at him in the finals.”
He likes his chances to reach the Masters. A good showing there will gain him a berth in the state tournament. While he believes he has improved this season, Ruz worries that the experience he lost through last year’s injury could hurt him.
“When I first started here, I wasn’t a very aggressive wrestler. I used to lay back and wait for the other guy to make a mistake. This year I have been more outgoing in my moves and a little more confident. I think I would be even more confident if I had wrestled last year. It would have given me a lot more experience especially if I would have gone on to the higher levels (of competition).”
It is too late to worry about that, however. Ruz will have to do the best that he can, knowing that some of the wrestlers he will face will hold an experience advantage. Ruz does hold one advantage over anyone he will face: coaching.
Bonita’s head coach, Gabe Ruz Sr., represented Mexico in the ’72 Olympics. There is not much that the elder Ruz has not seen in his lifelong commitment to the sport. Bonita Vista High wrestling has brought father and son together.
“Wrestling here has brought us a little bit closer,” says the younger Ruz. “He both teach-es and coaches here, so we are always around each other. We are always talking about wrestling at home. It has given us a closer relationship.”
Being the son of an Olympic wrestler can be a double-edged sword. People naturally expect more from him and anything he accomplishes on the mats short of reaching the Olympics himself pales in comparison to the achievements of his father. But the younger Ruz does not get caught up in comparisons.
“Wrestling is really his sport. He has more of a passion for it. I like it and I do it for fun, but I am not as passionate about it as he is and I am not competing against him. Wrestling has given me a foundation for appreciating hard work. It builds mental toughness and I think it will help prepare me for anything I decide to do in life.”