Not afraid to exert himself: Solid work ethic defines Fruita’s Jeff Gonzales
Jeff Gonzales received a pair of handmade polka-dotted shorts from a girlfriend right before a high school regional wrestling tournament last season.
The Fruita Monument High School wrestler wore them in warm-ups, then went on to qualify for the Class 5A state tournament for the first time.
“They have sentimental value,” said Gonzales, who wears them once a week and for warm-ups at each tournament.
The shorts are helping again — Gonzales’ success is carrying over in his final season for the Wildcats.
However, the 130-pound senior took his lumps his first two years of high school wrestling.
“He was about as green as any middle school wrestler coming in,” Fruita coach Jim Stockert said. “He had a lot of tenacity and hard work. He’d get after it, but we definitely had to work on his technique and skills. He’s never been afraid of hard work and getting after it. That’s a big part of what makes him successful right now. He goes and goes and goes. He doesn’t ease up.”
Gonzales (13-4) looks to continue his success in the annual Jackpot Duals at 5:30 tonight at Grand Junction High School.
Gonzales learned what it took to be a successful wrestler his freshman year.
“We had a really good team my freshman year,” he said. “I saw (Fruita) state champion Joe Meinhart and watched his work ethic. I kept that in the back of my head. If I want to be that good, this is how I have to work.
“I like the fact that it’s the hardest sport I’ve ever done. It was a chance to push myself outside academics. It was a nice change of pace.”
Gonzales’ work ethic extends to the classroom as well.
“I’ve always been really self-motivated,” he said. “I see competition in the classroom like I see it in the wrestling room.”
He has a 4.2 grade-point average thanks to a couple Advanced Placement classes (psychology and calculus) and has already applied to institutions such as the U.S. Naval Academy, Georgetown, MIT, Dartmouth and Colorado School of Mines.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Marine since I was a little boy,” Gonzales said. “The prospect of free education and coming out an officer would be pretty good.”
Gonzales doesn’t have any family members in the armed services, but he became enamoured with the idea during a family vacation to the Washington, D.C., area.
“It was a real superficial interest at first,” Gonzales said. “I saw the silent drill squad perform and thought it was really neat. As I grew older, I found out more about the Marines and really liked what I heard.”
Gonzales hasn’t decided what he wants to study yet, but is considering engineering. He knows he would like to fly if he goes to the Marines.
His passion, though, is language arts.
“I would like to become a teacher, possibly a college professor,” Gonzales said. “Language arts is more of my passion, but I feel like I’m better in math and science.”
The way he carries himself has become an example to his teammates.
“(Gonzales) takes on the leadership role,” Stockert said. “He energizes the kids. He does more so verbally than the other captains.”
Gonzales is one of three captains on the team this season, along with McNulty and Kyle Hamaker.