Naps, Malls, and Wrestling: The Mario Vasquez Story - My Family Travels

I was starving. The laughter and dirty jokes that came from my teammates couldn’t overpower the loud growl coming from my shrinking stomach. This is the pitfall in the life of a wrestler. We were seven wrestlers stuffed in a van heading to our division championship tournament. Not a soul in that van was comfortable with the cramped space or our manly farting competition. Little did I know, this long strange trip would teach me the true meaning of friendship, determination and how great the beds at Best Western really are.

As we drove up the long and bumpy ride on Interstate 8 to San Diego from our sleepy little town of El Centro, California, we found ourselves extremely bored. Thankfully there was Josh. Josh, our honorable and humble leader was sleeping on the floor in the van. For reasons unknown, there was no passenger front seat so he was comfortably sleeping in that space. We didn’t really mind Josh being on display in front of us but something really caught our eye. One of his eyes was half-open! It was a very freaky thing to see. We tried everything, from clapping near his face to obnoxiously making fun of his giant head, to make sure he was actually sleeping. There he was sound asleep with one and a half eyes closed. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Best Western we would be staying at that night, Josh seemed to have a permanent shade of pink on his cheeks thanks to our playful jabs at his interesting way of resting.

As we settled into our tiny yet comfortable rooms, Coach Cordova proposed a night at the nearby Fashion Valley Mall in downtown San Diego with a possible movie later on. Roaming a land of 200 stores sounded like an exciting activity for us and we happily agreed. Once we arrived, we did what any team full of teenagers would do. We went crazy! Our shenanigans continued for an hour or so before we decided to relax a little with a movie that had just hit the box office, the 2009 comedy film Fired Up. It was a fairly good movie with a couple of big laughs and the usual gross out humor aimed for the 13-18 demographic. With our bodies relaxed and our eyes on the prize for the following day’s tournament we came back to our hotel in pure happiness.

We spent the night watching our hero Bear Grylls teach us a thing or two about surviving the wildlife on the Discovery Channel before slowly drifting to sleep. The next morning it was game time. Our long strange year filled with hardship and intense practice would finally be justified with championship medals. I believe the previous day’s fun activities didn’t hurt either.

Three members of our team, including me, ended up placing in the top 6 out of the 24 wrestlers in each weight class. That’s a pretty good result for a team who had only one placer the year before. As we rode off (or drove off) into the sunset that day with our medals shining, we realized that we had all experienced something special. A weekend with a family of wrestlers. Comforting yet wild, despite the freaky one and a half eyed sleeping.


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