Josh Rodriguez and Luke Wilson returned to where it all began Saturday.

The former Righetti wrestlers, who are now Division I wrestlers, took part in duals hosted by Righetti High School as part of a three-team meet held inside Warrior Gym. 

Rodriguez, a senior at North Dakota State, and Wilson, now a junior with Cal Poly, were both All-Americans at Righetti. Wilson won the CIF State Championship at 152 pounds as a senior in 2013. Wilson has battled injuries at Cal Poly, just becoming healthy enough to return to the mat this year. 

Rodriguez has continued to be a dominant force with the Bison since graduating from Righetti nearly five years ago. Coming into Saturday's duals, against Cal Poly and Cal State Bakersfield, Rodriguez carried a 15-1 record and was ranked No. 3 in the nation at 125 pounds. 

Rodriguez's performance against Cal Poly's Isaac Blackburn brought the crowd to life Saturday.

The 5-foot-3 Rodriguez scored early and often against Blackburn, nearly scoring a fall late in the third period. Ultimately, Rodriguez was awarded a technical fall after building up nearly a 20-point lead on the sophomore Blackburn. 

"I actually got really nervous and excited at the same time. I didn't know how to process it all," Rodriguez said of wrestling in his old high school gym, which was filled with a large crowd. "Seeing all these familiar faces and the community come together to support me and Luke. It's awesome. It's been a great experience."

The Bison beat the Mustangs 30-6. Wilson took on North Dakota State's Andrew Fogarty to start the dual against the Bison. Fogarty is the No. 17 wrestler in the nation at 165 pounds and Wilson took him to the limit, ultimately falling 7-6. 

Rodriguez started his day in the dual against Bakersfield, beating Sean Nickell 10-5. The Bison won that match 32-8 and are now 12-3 on the season. Cal Poly fell to 4-8 on the season after losing to NDSU. The Mustangs beat the Roadrunners 21-18 in a Pac-12 Conference meet Saturday night and Wilson dropped his 165-pound bout to CSUB's Lorenzo De La Riva.

Rodriguez said his performance was inspired by returning to a place he's spent a lot of time in over the years, wrestling in front of his family and friends.

"It definitely motivated me. I wanted to give these guys a show," Rodriguez said. "Showcase my abilities and skills. They haven't seen me competing in person since high school. I wanted to show all these people what I've been doing.

"I'm glad the coaches and the administrations could get this together and work this out for us."

Rodriguez has a lot planned for his final few months as a collegiate wrestler with the NCAA Championships coming up in March. 

"It's important for me to wrestle hard the rest of the year and get myself into the best ranking and position I can for nationals. My goal is to wrestle as hard as I can every match and ultimately become a national champion. But if I can go out there and wrestle hard every time the results will speak for themselves."

Angel Rodriguez, Joshua's dad, has seen his son compete a lot over the course of his career, but Saturday night's performance in front of big crowd at Righetti was something to remember.

"For me, it was a blessing to watch him compete," Angel said. "I know he really enjoyed doing this and putting on a show for his fan-base. There are so many people who have supported him on this journey. He was happy to showcase his talent for all those people."

Angel expects his son to close out his collegiate career in style at the NCAA Championships, which will be held in St. Louis starting March 16. 

"The last five years have been enjoyable to watch him develop as a young man and an athlete," Angel Rodriguez said. "He doesn't want to settle for anything less than an NCAA championship. That's what he worked so hard for. Regardless, I think he'll end up on the podium. He's that caliber of wrestler.

"I think the the sky is the limit for the next five years for him. He has goals to wrestle internationally. He wants to become a D1 coach and continue to wrestle and make it to the next Olympics."


Sports Editor

Alumni Fresno State