On Feb. 23, Friendswood High School senior Manny Elizondo won the State Championship for 5A boys wrestling. Ten years of intense workouts, early mornings, passion, traveling and dietary restrictions all led to that moment right there; however, for Elizondo, this was only the beginning.
In all of the chaos of the State tournament – the crowd, the competitors, the loudness of the arena – Elizondo, a man of few words, kept his mindset simple: “Just do something. Don’t stop moving.”
Elizondo and his coaches, Matthew Byrd and Steven Griffith, knew he had a good chance of winning; he just had to stay focused.
“For him, we’ve expected this since his freshman year – that he would go on to win State,” Byrd said. “He barely missed qualifying for State his freshman year, and that was the first and last time I’ve seen him upset.”
Elizondo used his frustration from the narrow-miss as a way to stay motivated in his training.
“I wake up around 4 o’clock in the morning, I get to the gym around 5:00 and I stay there until 6:30 doing a lot of rope climbs and circuits,” Elizondo said.
Byrd has witnessed Elizondo’s tireless work-ethic first-hand.
“Manny is extremely hard-working. [Wrestling] is his passion,” Byrd said. “What sets him apart is he does this year-round because he loves to compete.”
For the past six years, Elizondo has traveled with a national team called Team Texas. This team has taken Elizondo all around the United States to compete in tournaments. Ironically, Elizondo ended up facing one of his Team Texas teammates in the final round of the State tournament.
“The only person I knew [at State] was the guy I faced in the final match,” Elizondo said. “He and I had attended a national tournament together, so I knew he would be good competition.”
However, before making it to the final round, Byrd said Elizondo had to wait to compete for an extended period of time; something he described as ‘exhausting.’
“I don’t think people realized, he wrestled the match to get there at 9:30 in the morning, then he didn’t wrestle again until 7:00 p.m.,” Byrd said. “That’s a long day with all of those emotions, just sitting around. That will tire-out a kid from those high emotions of trying to be a State champ.”
Despite being someone his coaches described as “not a kid who has a lot of emotion” to be worn-out from, Elizondo felt “very tired” entering the last round of the State competition. Regardless, Elizondo won the title and solidified his 28th win and an undefeated season in the 5A 170-pound weight class.
“When he won, we were happy for him,” Byrd said. “We were happy for his parents too – his parents are at everything; they’re extremely supportive. His father was sitting in the stands with some tears, so I know he was really excited and proud.”
Sharing that moment with his parents, grandmother and coaches meant the world to Elizondo.
“It was exciting; it meant a lot having them there,” he said. “[Since winning,] a lot of my friends and family having been telling me ‘good job’ and I’ve received calls and texts from coaches from other schools.”
Even with all of the attention, perhaps the person the win meant the most to was Elizondo himself. Since starting his wrestling career at eight-years-old, this was the height of his experience.
“I did the thing. I got the medal. I got the affirmation,” Elizondo said.
Even still, he said he wants to achieve more.
“I’m not on top,” Elizondo humbly stated. “That’s it; that’s my motivation [to keep working hard].”
Elizondo will definitely be pushed to achieve even more as he continues his wrestling career at the collegiate level. In the fall of 2019, Elizondo will begin wrestling for Oklahoma State University. There he will major in Business and Entrepreneurship.
“He’s just a well-behaved young man,” Byrd said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what he offers OSU in the future.”