BLOOMINGTON, IL - Ridgeview High junior wrestler Matthew Rodriguez twice has been thwarted from a Florida state title with a third place finish and a second place finish last year, but the fiery 106 pound wrestler, now at 119 pounds, leap-frogged over that obstacle to take a national title at the Midwest Nationals held Sat., July 13 in Bloomington-Normal, IL at Illinois Wesleyan University.
"Things happen at state and I would say that both of those were good matches and I didn't take advantage of situations," said Matt Rodriguez. "The whole goal is to win and those guys wrestled to win just like me. I don't live in the past, but learn from it and to prepare for future situations."
The jump to 119 pounds to wrestle in the 114-119 weight division at the Midwest Nationals was a just a matter, for Bart Rodriguez, Matthew's coach also at Ridgeview High School, of normal growth.
"Matthew weighed in at 119 and they combined weight classes to put him in the 114-119 weight class," said Bart Rodriguez."After the season ended last year, he had a growth spurt and we wanted to go with wherever he was. He has been comfortable at 120 for the summer."
Rodriguez, who was 6-2 at the National High School Coaches Association nationals in Virginia after Florida state championships, won three matches; including a 5-0 championship win, in the 114-119 pound weight division for national ninth and 10 grader wrestlers in the event.
"After the NHSCA, we went to New Mexico, Illinois and other matches around the country to Virginia for a big Rumble event," said Rodriguez. "We have also put in some camps along the way. We haven't been home that much. We've made it kind of a vacation summer with wrestling."
Rodriguez, with a 76-2 overall two year high school record and a one loss record last year, rumbled through three opponents after a first round bye at the prestigious national event to win a 5-0 championship match to earn his first national title.
"We wanted at least a warmup match, but got the bye," said Rodriguez. "We knew his matches would be strong right from the beginning."
En route to the title, Rodriguez dominated his early two matches to qualify with a 6-0 fall over Jared Wehrle of Vindalia, IL. Wehrle, a 15-0 winner in his first round match, held a 27-9 season record for Indiana high schools with a regional and sectional title and a sixth at state (Class 1A) for the season. In 2018, Wehrle was second in both region and sectional and again was sixth in Class 1A in Indiana.
"Matt got a cradle, but didn't get the call,"said Rodriguez. "I was comfortable that he handled the adversity at that level."
In his second match, Rodriguez would win a dominant 15-2 major win over Travis Hodges of Davenport, Iowa, a state qualifier for Iowa with a fifth in conference, second in his 3A district and a 33-22 overall record.
"In the midwest, the wrestlers like to hand fight and are smart on bottom," said Rodriguez. "They are patient and methodical. We learn from camps to adjust to be able to counter. Here, we put the opponents in position out of their styles. Matt attacked first to set the tone. All three guys were very different."
In the final, Rodriguez won 5-3 over Anthony Montez of Geneseo, IL, who advanced to the final match with two pins and a 5-3 win. Montez was 40-14 in his high school season with 20 pins.
"We attacked first to avoid his fast start that he showed in his early matches with quick pins," said Rodriguez. "Stamina became part of the equation."
Rodriguez will get a week off then travel to three camps before returning to Clay County just before school. A trip to Belize is a reward trip that Matthew earned from a dad challenge to earn trip anywhere he wanted when his summer wrestling took a break.