Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 | 1 a.m.
Gabe Suarez's first season of college wrestling at St. Cloud State in Minnesota went better than he expected.
The Cimarron-Memorial graduate entered the Division II national tournament ranked No. 8 in the country at 141 pounds and finished the season with a 32-6 record.
Despite coming up short in his quest to earn All-American status at nationals — he didn't win a match at the tournament — the former Nevada state champion laid the foundation for a successful college career.
Part of the learning process includes dealing with the disappointment of closing last year with a loss.
"It was tough to sit back and watch the rest of the tournament after I lost," Suarez said. "I definitely didn't want to have that feeling again. It stuck with me all offseason."
The disappoint continued for Suarez through the beginning of this season. Through Jan. 15, he already lost more matches (7) than all of last season, while winning 17. The spike in losses, Suarez said, was due to overconfidence and perhaps even a bit of laziness.
"At the beginning of the year I wasn't wrestling my style," Suarez said. "I was trying to be more technical and that's not me. I usually go out there and try to dominate and get somebody tired."
Winning matches by wearing out opponents is the same strategy that's worked for Suarez since his days at Cimarron.
He placed fifth in state as a freshman at 112 pounds in 2003, placed second at 119 as a sophomore and second at 125 as a junior. Then, finally as a senior, he captured a state championship at 125 pounds.
"He believed if his match was close in the second period, he would overtake his opponent in the third because of his strength, stamina and because he was better conditioned," Cimarron co-head coach Tim Jeffries said.
Suarez credits Jeffries and Cimarron's other co-head coach, Mike Garcia, as the reason he is a collegiate wrestler today. When he was in Las Vegas for a week during Christmas vacation, Suarez made a point to visit his old coaches and wrestle with the current crop of Spartans.
"Cimarron has been successful because of those coaches and the attitude they produce," Suarez said. "You think you're tough going in there and they give you a reality check. The major thing I learned from Jeffries and Garcia is there no hidden secret to wrestling or life in general. It's just hard work."
After his losing streak to start this season, Suarez said he intended to apply the same work ethic he had at Cimarron to the rest of his year.
Suarez said anything less than an a top-eight finish at nationals this year would be a disappointment. By the time he's done, he desires a national championship.
"Last year I was very excited going into nationals, and it just didn't end up the way I wanted it to," Suarez said. "I really wanted to be an all-American last year but things happen for a reason. You have to pick yourself up and keep going."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].