Pioneer's Avila leaner and focused on trip to state

Pioneer's Avila leaner and focused on trip to state
Posted on 01/25/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Pioneer's Avila leaner and focused on trip to stateAngel Avila stood across from his opponent on the wrestling mat and, at first glance, he wasn’t too concerned.

Then the two shook hands and that handshake shook Avila.

“He was standing there all scrawny and like he never lifted anything and his bones were scrawny,” said the Sharyland Pioneer 120-pound wrestler. “Once I felt that grip though I knew he was going to give me a hard time.”

“Scrawny guy” won the match, being held in Illinois during a summer wrestling event.

Avila learned a lot from that match, and his previous two years as a Diamondback grappler. Now, coming off a first place at the All-Valley Wrestling Match, he’s hoping to take that momentum to Rio Grande City High School today for the district duals.

It’s been a long year for Avila, who was disqualified from the district tournament last year on the second day. “I busted weight,” he said. “I ate too much.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Pioneer coach Richard Eckley, in his fifth year at the helm of both the Pioneer boys and girls program. “You have to maintain your weight.” The lost cost him what Eckley believes a chance at making state. The wrestler who won the district, Rio Grande City’s Raul Lopez, defeated Avila earlier in the season, 8-6.

“Angel was on a roll at that point in the season,” Eckley said. “I think he could’ve advanced.”

The junior, who also competes in cross country and pole vaults in track, is in his third year on the mat. He didn’t compete in districts his freshman year, instead traveling to California to attend his brother R.J.’s graduation from the Marine Academy.

R.J. also wrestled at Pioneer and Eckley describes both of their styles as “relentless.” After Angel was disqualified during his sophomore year, R.J. did what good big brothers should do.

“He got after me,” Angel said, wincing just a bit at the memory. “I don’t want that – he got mad at me and had ‘a talk’ with me.”

There’s a certain respect Angel has for his brother when he talks about him. He described him as 5-feet-9 inches tall, 216 pounds and “just a little fat.” Then he unconsciously ducked, seemingly concerned big brother was suddenly standing behind him instead of being on base in California, just having returned from a tour in Iraq.

Of course, “fat” for wrestlers might mean a percentage of bodyfat over perfection – it’s all relative. What is not is the non-stop aggression he maintains on the mat.

“Conditioning is the most important thing for relentless aggression style wrestlers,” Eckley said. “They work on it a lot in practice. You don’t want them getting tired in the third period and suddenly they run out of gas and get pinned.”

There’s an old cliché that wrestlers come just from a different breed. Their mentality is different – as is the one-on-one physicality of one of the world’s oldest sports. Avila is soft-spoken with a seemingly quiet demeanor. Put him on the mat and he transforms into the Tasmanian Devil, ready to battle anything and anyone in his way. He knows he has missed opportunities on the mat and his actions during practice prove he’s out for a different result this year.

“Angel is the most improved wrestler over the year; his practice habits have really improved,” Eckley said. “He’s always been really talented and his practice habits have improved so much. He is looking to get better every second he gets a change to be on the mat in practice. It has shown at all the meets this year.”

Eckley, who brought five girls and four boys to the state meet last year, expects Angel to have a shot this year to be on a part trip to Cypress, Texas, for the state tournament. “He has a chance to be a regional champion and a place-winner at state,” Eckley said.

“I want to prove everyone that I can do it,” Angel said. “I need to be in condition, work on technique and endurance and strength.

“And maintain my weight.”

If he doesn’t do that last one, he can expect another “talk” from his brother R.J., even if he is “a little fat.”