Westview's Angel Sanchez takes home 6A state wrestling title
Somehow, someway, with all the buzz swirling around him starting last spring, building through the summer and coming into his senior season at Westview, Angel Sanchez exceeded every bit of hype and then some.
On the mat, Sanchez was a phenomenon who blew in from North Miami like a category five hurricane and wreaked hellfire in his first and only year in a Wildcat singlet. Not only did the 138-pound senior slay every opponent in his path, but he also demolished them, rolling a 40-0 record with 32 pins against elite competition both in and out of state. His stock skyrocketed as the season went along. As the Class 6A state championship meet unfolded, Sanchez continued to steamroll, finishing his incredible senior campaign with a state title win over Sprague's Riley Davis at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 29.
"It feels great because I worked really hard for it," Sanchez said. "I never doubted myself. I just trusted the whole process that I've had with my coaches and believed in it."
Sanchez wasn't taken down by a single opponent all season long. No foe scored an offensive point against him. And the competition was far from weak. Westview purposefully pursues one of the stiffest regular season schedules in the state. At the biggest tournaments, ones such as Pac Coast, CCC Takedown, Rose City Championships, where the competition was fiercest, Sanchez showed brightest.
"In my opinion, he's the best wrestler the Metro League has ever seen, he's that good," Westview head coach Michael Delaney said. "I've had a lot of people in this building (VMC) tell me that throughout the season. Wherever we've gone this season he was the best kid in the building. He's off the charts."
Off the mat, Sanchez was equally impressive. In the classroom, the Division One wrestling hopeful sports a 1360 on his SATs. Away from the mat, Sanchez is Delaney's son's hero. He became an instant favorite with Westview's youth program for his friendliness and happy go lucky demeanor. And in the Wildcat practice room, fellow grapplers gravitated toward him. In a sport that can border on drudgery at its toughest moments, Sanchez was a beacon, a leader both by his actions and attitude.
"He wants to be great in everything he does," Delaney said. "He's one of the finest gentlemen I've ever met. He has great energy. He changed the culture in our (practice) room and just gave us such a good, positive vibe. He's an amazing teammate, a great listener, a great worker with great desire."
At Westview, the Wildcats honor each of their state champions with life-size posters of each titlist with their arms being held up in the air by the head referee after winning the crown. As Sanchez would run by while getting in conditioning work during practice, he'd imagine his homage next to the likes of Joel Timmons, David Escobar and Joey Coste. Inspirational quotes on Westview's wrestling wall such as "It takes more to be a champion" and "Mentally Strong" propelled Sanchez when he was sprinting on the treadmill, cutting weight, diligently staying at 138 pounds with no slipups.
"I used to dream about it, visualize it and now it's come to fruition," Sanchez said. "Every time I passed by that championship board, I went harder. I knew I had to train hard if I wanted to get it. There were times where it was hard, running by myself and needing to focus. I knew it would pay off. I'm glad it finally did."
Sanchez's Mom, Amarla, flew in from Miami for the 6A state meet and was front and center in the stands as her son destroyed the 138-pound field. After Sanchez finished his 9-3 decision win over Davis, he spun around, found his Mom in the Coliseum seats, pointed at her and flashed that big grin that's become synonymous with his sunny disposition.
"I love her to death, she's supported every single match," Sanchez said of his Mom. "It killed her to not be there during the season, but I told her I'd make her proud. She's always been there for me. I feel like I brought it home for everybody that supported me. I feel like I won it for all of us."
Sanchez moved to Oregon from Miami last summer when his older brother got a job with Intel. He did so without his parents, who stayed back in Florida while their sons migrated West. Essentially, Sanchez experienced college life a year earlier than his peers. His mom couldn't do his laundry for him, cook his meals, take him to school, make sure his schoolwork got done on time. His responsible older brother acted as a parental figure, but Sanchez was responsible for his own wellbeing. He took up cooking, with a helping hand from Gordon Ramsay's instructional videos on YouTube, whipping up dishes that reminded him of home such as Ropa Vieja.
"I gained a lot of independence this year," Sanchez said. "My brother travels a lot, so I was home by myself. It was me having to push myself. I didn't have my parents to push me to make weight, to work after practice, to go to that extra practice at Peninsula (Mat Club) on Sundays. It was all my motivation to do it. It was hard in the beginning, but I really do love this sport and I feel like I became more grown."
Ignore the number three designation next to Sanchez's name in the 138-pound bracket. Though Sanchez was technically the third seed in his weight class, he had few equals be it the ones he faced off against or otherwise. When word got around that once-in-a-decade type of talent was working on the mat, all eyes in the building shifted to Sanchez who put on a show for the state to see.
For all the preseason speculation that Sanchez was a cut above, that he was in a class of his own, the senior was even better and more believable than anybody associated with the Wildcat program could have imagined. Sanchez just kept coming on the mat. He was never out of position, never prone. He stayed on his toes, dancing like a ballerina in his athletic stance, but shooting and attacking like a saw-scaled viper. Sanchez's wrestling style fit right in with Delaney's methodology off the bat. It helped that both Delaney and Sanchez are both southpaws who have similar offensive techniques.
The rumors Sanchez might be the best grappler Westview has ever produced in a long line of state titlists and state finalists were verified. Each week brought a new challenge, a grimy tournament against the best of the best from the West Coast, a dual against a rugged Washington school. Time after time Sanchez bested his previous effort, raising the bar for himself and his teammates looking on in awe. As good as he was coming into Westview, Sanchez will leave it as an even superior competitor. Delaney said a Division One coach was in the Wildcat practice room two weeks ago, scouting Sanchez, getting a viewing of one of the best prospects on the West Coast. He'll make a collegiate decision in the spring and continue in a sport he's just now beginning to get a full grasp of.
"As the competition got better, he elevated himself to another level that his opponent couldn't come close to matching," Delaney said. "He's so smart. He can watch a match and know exactly what needs to go out there and do against a guy. He's a student of the sport. And his ceiling is still so high. There is so much more he's going to learn. He's going to be a very good college wrestler. Whoever gets him is getting a gem."
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