Los Gatos High freshman sensation Antonio Rodriguez, seen here during his 4-0 decision win over Monta Vista's Hayden Ancheta in the 113-pound CCS Masters Finals championship match, went on to place second at State. File photo.

Antonio Rodriguez’s Los Gatos High wrestling teammates refer to him as Ant-Man. Wildcats coach Greg Varela calls the freshman standout Mantonio. 

Rodriguez lived up to those nicknames in the recently completed season, which culminated with a strong second-place finish in the 113-pound CIF State Championship at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield on Feb. 25. 

Rodriguez was one of three State medalists—a Los Gatos program record—along with sophomore Dylan Pile, who took fourth place at 160 pounds, and junior EJ Parco, who placed fifth at 145. 

“I felt pretty good about how I did,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t the result I wanted, but I feel like I did really good for my freshman year and did everything I could do.”

Rodriguez went 5-1 at State, recording a 15-0 technical fall victory, a 13-2 major decision, a third-period pinfall, a 5-0 decision and a 5-3 decision win in the semifinals over Anthony Lucio before sustaining a 9-2 loss to Walnut High’s Ronnie Ramirez, who is a top-10 nationally ranked wrestler.  

Though his loss to Ramirez was decisive, Rodriguez has made a lot of progress considering last year at Reno Worlds “I got destroyed by him,” Rodriguez said. This year Rodriguez closed the gap a bit, and he’s looking to narrow the gap even further during the club season. 

If the two remain in the same weight class, they’ll be duking it out for the next two years because Ramirez is just a sophomore. Rodriguez plans on getting more efficient and dangerous on his shots while staying mentally tough to come out with a state championship next year. 

“To close the gap I would say I need to finish my shots because I didn’t finish my sweeps every single time at State,” he said. “I kept getting in there but not finishing it. Just work on a little more technique and I’m getting a lot better on bottom and want to continue to improve on that.”

Rodriguez is an all-around wrestler but is best on his feet, as he’s able to utilize his speed to score points while also employing solid takedown defense. The State showing capped off a spectacular season for Ramirez, who also was runner-up to Ramirez at the Reno TOC—one of the premier tournaments in the Western U.S.—in December, to go along with a Central Coast Section Masters Final title. 

“Coach Greg told me I beat one of the school records as the very first [LGHS] freshman to win CCS,” Rodriguez said. “So I was very happy for that.”

Rodriguez beat Monta Vista’s Hayden Ancheta in the CCS Northern Regional and Masters Finals by scores of 3-1 and 4-0, respectively, on back-to-back weekends in mid-February. The CCS Finals rematch was a more dominant showing, as Rodriguez was in complete control from the outset. 

He scored on a reversal and led 2-0 after the second period before adding two more points in the third and final period. 

“Wrestling Hayden again was cool,” Rodriguez said. “Just trying to make that gap even bigger. He’s bigger, taller, so I had to use my speed a lot more on him. Just using my speed, fakes, hand fighting, and snaps.”

After Rodriguez took second in the Reno TOC, Varela had some words of praise for the freshman sensation. 

“What I told Antonio on the drive home is you’re like a young superhero who doesn’t quite know your potential yet, but you know you have something special,” Varela said. “All of those Marvel movies and guys developing their power and coming into their own, that’s what I was trying to relate to him. You’re just like Spider-Man and just starting to realize you’ve got something special, but it’s not just something you rest on but something you develop. There’s going to be highs and lows and you have to keep honing those skills to really understand how good you can be. He hasn’t even scratched the surface yet.”

Rodriguez has some capable wrestling bloodlines. His dad, Johnny, won the North Coast Section 191-pound championship in 1988 while at Liberty High in Brentwood. Johnny also earned Cadet Freestyle and Greco-Roman All American honors on the club circuit. Antonio started wrestling at age 4 and credited his dad for providing all the support necessary as he started to develop into a premier talent. 

“I would say my first hard tournament was the Selma Bash [before age 10], and I got destroyed there,” Antonio said. “My dad saw what the next level was for me going against bigger kids so he started getting me good coaches and good partners to help me develop to the next level. He started entering me into some bigger tournaments and I just took off from there.”

Rodriguez has a pure joy for competition and that’s why he embraces the challenge of trying to beat a Division I type talent in Ramirez. If Rodriguez continues to progress, there’s no doubt he’ll receive some D-I offers as well. 

“I love competition and am always trying to get better,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to win State next year. I want it really bad so I’m going to work hard to achieve that goal.”

Wildcats freshman Antonio Rodriguez celebrates after winning the 113-pound CCS Championship on Feb. 18. File photo.
Previous articleAfter discipline decision, First Amendment advocate sets sights on Los Gatos
Next articleCoach Benny Pierce: a life well lived
Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here