Alex Munoz captures seventh place for second state medal, third appearance
The pain was unbearable.
Valencia senior Alex Munoz had already broken both of his elbows at one point or another throughout his wrestling career, and the pain he felt in his right elbow during his 182-pound quarterfinal match at the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet was reminiscent of those injuries.
“I was ready to give up,” Munoz said. “I thought I was done, it was over for me.”
Goals of a third trip to the state meet and a second state medal were seemingly gone. His head coach, Brian Peterson, thought differently.
“My coach was able to calm me down and they got me to believe that I could just push through these few matches and at least qualify for state and then just take it easy and see what happens,” Munoz said.
Munoz ended up finishing the match, beating St. John Bosco’s Michael Morales by major decision, 18-4. Munoz made the decision to forfeit the semifinal match in hopes of qualifying for the state meet through the consolation bracket. He was able to pull that off as well, beating Trabuco Hills’ Logan Witten by major decision, 14-0.
Munoz ended up placing fourth at the Masters Meet, one spot ahead of the final state qualifying spot. That left him with less than a week to prepare for state and get his elbow — which he now thinks was just hyperextended — to a manageable pain level.
The pain never fully subsided, but Munoz was once again able to push that to the side and just wrestle, eventually finishing seventh at the event held at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield Feb. 23-25.
“When I was wrestling, most of the pain, I didn’t even feel it,” Munoz said. “It was more afterwards. So, I was able to just push through it.”
It was a triumphant feeling for the senior, who will move on to wrestle collegiately at Division II University of Nebraska at Kearney where he will reunite with his older brother, Trent. He was able to finish his high school wrestling career despite life’s obstacles making it seem like an impossible task.
“I felt really triumphant, just overcoming adversities,” Munoz said. “I had so many at the time. I just came down with a cold, I got my bum elbow, I had some family stuff, my grandfather passed away. It was just so many things that are like coming down to me, and to be able to go there and place, do it again, it felt amazing.”
Peterson had no doubt that Munoz would get back on the podium for his second state medal — he previously took seventh place in 2021 at 170 pounds as a junior after qualifying as a freshman in 2020 but not placing.
That confidence came from watching Munoz grow from a novice in elementary school to a junior high wrestler who was beating high school seniors at tournaments.
“I always believed in him,” Peterson said. “Once I would say he was about 8, 9, 10, I already believed in him because as long as they don’t quit in the first year, as long as they continue, I know they’re going to be good. But once he was in junior high, and he was beating high school kids, you know, I think that’s when I knew, ‘Man when this kid gets in high school, he’s going to be pretty good.’”
Pretty good turned into being a three-time state qualifier and two-time medalist. Peterson thinks that Munoz’s mentality sets him apart.
“His biggest strength is he doesn’t really care that much,” Peterson said. “A lot of kids care so much about the result of a wrestling match it that they’re beating themselves up inside. And he doesn’t seem to do that. Maybe he is nervous on the inside, but he doesn’t show it.”
Munoz needed a bit of enticing to begin his wrestling journey. He initially started out with kickboxing at 7 years old, but one of the parents told him and his brother, then 9, that if they tried out a wrestling practice that they would get ice cream after.
“Obviously, we’re little kids and we wanted ice cream, so we tried it,” Munoz said. “And ever since then, we stuck with it and it’s brought us to where we are now.”
The road hasn’t been easy for Munoz or the Valencia wrestling program. There aren’t many other schools in the area for the Vikings to have a close rivalry with, leading Valencia to join the Coastal Canyon League.
That league includes schools such as Camarillo, Simi Valley and Moorpark. Most dual meets require one-way drives of over an hour, and tournaments can be upwards of two hours.
That’s just the way wrestling works, Peterson said.
“That’s not a big deal,” Peterson said. “It just means we got to drive a little further.”
Valencia is also a program that doesn’t carry as many wrestlers as some of the bigger programs. Wrestlers sometimes don’t have partners to help train, and that puts a lot of pressure on the Valencia coaches — Peterson, Anton Kalista and Patty Pearson — to help their wrestlers progress and succeed.
“I really relied on my coaches this season,” Munoz said. “Coach Anton, coach Patty, they’re my wrestling partners. Coach Brian would always be showing me techniques that I could do, same with Patty and Anton. I owe it all to them this season. I couldn’t have done anything without them.”
Coaching is something that Munoz has taken up on the side while he is still wrestling. He helps Peterson with some of the youth wrestlers and sees it is as a possible way to stay in the sport after he calls it quits on his own career.
Not only does it benefit the kids that he helps, but also Munoz has found coaching to help himself with his own knowledge of wrestling.
“It does definitely help yourself because you have to understand the move that you’re teaching to another level in order to teach them and help them understand,” Munoz said. “It definitely helped me and it’s just good to give back to what helped me become so good. I definitely had those kids that I’d look up to when I was little, and to be like that for them, it’s really cool.”