Gomez gives it one last go
As the tournament heats up, so does Gomez's love for wrestling
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- They call it “burn out.”
It does not matter what sport, and it happens at all levels. At some point practice is not interesting anymore. An athlete hits that wall and knows it is time to move on, put the wrestling shoes away and eat three square meals a day.
For Ricky Gomez, that moment came after two runner-up finishes at the NJCAA Championships. He was tired of it, sick of the grind.
But a decision by his little brother, Alex, and a visit to the Ithaca (N.Y.) campus changed all that. After a year away from the mat, Ricardo Gomez came back last season. On Saturday morning he will wrestle in the semifinals of the Division III championships.
“After losing in the [NJCAA] finals two times, I just didn’t want to wrestle anymore,” Gomez, a senior, said. “But that year away I felt really weird not wrestling. I knew I had two years of eligibility left and my little brother said, ‘you should come to Ithaca.’ There was a part of me that felt like I had something left, that I didn’t finish what I started.”
On Friday, Gomez (25-2) edged Augsburg’s Mike Fuenffinger 3-1 in the first round at 125 pounds. A few hours later he flattened Brockport State’s Matthias Elias in the first period. In Saturday’s semifinals he will face Wartburg All-American Gilberto Camacho.
Little brother Alex, a sophomore, won a pair of grinding decisions on Friday, beating Centenary's (N.J.) Zach Huxford 4-1 and Luther College’s Evan Obert 5-3 to advance to the 133-pound semifinals.
“Our parents have had to separate us a few times just like the coaches,” the older Gomez said. “We’ve been brawling for a long time. He has a great work ethic, so I am not surprised he is where he is. He had to move up to 141 last year with Seth Ecker [2012 national champion], but I think that helped him get better, get tougher.”
Ithaca head coach Marty Nichols has not minded trying to keep the siblings apart. He’s also enjoyed watching Ricky “get back into it.”
“We tried to get Ricky to come for a visit once we got Alex,” Nichols said. “But [Ricky] was done; he wanted to go somewhere and finish his degree. He just didn’t want to wrestle anymore.
“But he has gotten re-motived, really gotten back into it. Having his little brother around, I think that has really helped him.”
“Looking back, it was the best decision I ever made, coming to Ithaca,” Ricky said. “It is hard to think that I was almost done.”
The brothers will have company in the semifinals. Jules Doliscar (31-1), Ithaca’s 174-pounder, pinned Wartburg’s Dylan Azinger with a slick cradle in the third period while trailing 3-1.
Elmhurst’s Mike Benefiel knows a thing or two about suffering some burn out. A four-time Illinois state champion, he started his career at Northwestern before moving on to Oklahoma State. Now a senior at 197 pounds, he is looking forward to his final day of collegiate wrestling.
“It was hard for me at first to really think about wrestling,” Benefiel said, who had three wins on Friday to advance to the semifinals. “To be an All-American, no matter where, it feels awesome. It’s my last college tournament, so I really want to go out there and have fun.
“Once I left Oklahoma State it was hard for me to get back into a wrestling mindset. I didn’t do what I wanted during my college career but I can still go out big. This year has been fun; I’m glad I decided to come back and do it again.”
Benefiel (22-2) will face unseeded Andrew Lovins of Heidelberg in the semifinals.