Troy Madrigal remembers his first afternoon on a wrestling mat, the enjoyment he felt learning the new sport and the quick answer he gave his mother, Rosa, when asked if he wanted to come back the next day.
Madrigal was 7 years old at the time. He won a state title in USA Wrestling’s youngest division the following year and hasn’t let up, capturing a Trinity League title in the 145-pound weight class last February as a sophomore at Servite High School.
“It went from weeks to months to years,” Madrigal said of his early training. “I stayed with the sport because I loved it so much.”
Now a junior with the Friars, he has ratcheted up his expectations this season while also eyeballing a lower weight class, a strategic but somewhat risky move for a 16-year-old wrestler of his caliber.
“A really important goal is to place at state,” he said. “Get on the podium.”
Finishing in the top eight in his weight class at the state championships March 3-4 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield is a realistic goal for Madrigal, who lost to eventual state champion Zander Wick of San Marino in the second round of the CIF-SS Masters meet last winter, the final qualifying meet for the state championships.
He dropped down a weight class last June at the Cadet World Trials in Akron, Ohio and felt strong physically, though he wasn’t satisfied with his results on the mat.
That experience gave him confidence that he could drop down to the 138-pound division during the high school season and still succeed.
“I can be more competitive and stronger,” he said. “I can get better at state and place higher.”
Dropping down to a lower weight for competitive advantages takes considerably more discipline for a wrestler, from his diet to the extreme exercise that’s often needed to make weight before a meet.
Madrigal remains confident that he can return to the weight class he wrestled at two years ago and dominate even more.
“I hit [that weight at the Cadet World Trials] and I, for sure, know I can hit it during the season,” he said.
Servite’s regular-season schedule is loaded with the toughest meets on the West Coast, including the Friars’ own invitational, The Mann Classic, scheduled for Dec. 16-17 at Santiago Canyon College.
They’ll head to Reno just after Christmas for the 85-team Sierra Nevada Classic, then to Arizona for the Peoria Tournament of Champions just after the New Year. After that, it’s back to Orange County for the prestigious Five Counties tournament Jan. 14-15 at Fountain Valley High School.
To finish where the Friars believe they should, they’ll need to replace some of the best wrestlers in the 10-year history of the program.
Liam Cronin was Servite’s first state finalist when he finished second in the 106-pound class two years ago, then repeated that runner-up finish last season in the 113-pound division. Angel Cordova was a state qualifier at 160 pounds last season and he also graduated.
“We’re really stacked on the lower weights, probably from 106 to 152,” Madrigal said. “From 160s up, it’s going to be iffy. We’re going to have to fill in some spots but, who knows, we can find some good guys. We can put him in there and they can get points.”