The Wrestling Musician

Michael Penyacsek, 16, has been wrestling since he was five

Michael Penyacsek splits his time between orchestra and
wrestling practice
Gilroy – Early Monday morning Michael Penyacsek packs up his oboe case and heads to school, ready to begin the week with a music-filled day.

The Gilroy High School student spends an hour in “zero period” jazz band before the school day even starts and a couple hours in wind ensemble. After the 3pm bell rings, he heads to private lessons and wraps up the day with the San Jose Youth Symphony.

At 10pm Penyacsek pulls into his driveway.

“So I play for five hours,” he said, with a smile. “It’s really hectic.”

But it’s obvious the 16-year-old enjoys his busy schedule, otherwise he wouldn’t tack on another hobby to his already-cluttered school day because when Penyacsek’s not tooting his oboe he’s on the wrestling mat.

In the world of wrestling – a sport many high school athletes devote every waking hour to – sharing schedules with another major hobby isn’t exactly average.

“They don’t really see people being a wrestler and playing an instrument at the same time,” he said.

And that, coupled with the knowledge that Penyacsek also happens to excel in the musical arena, makes him quite unique. Although the slightly shy teen has wrestled just as long as he’s played an instrument, he’ll quickly assert that music is his first love.

“It’s like part of you,” he said. “It’s like an expression of yourself.”

Influenced by his grandfather, who wanted well-rounded grandchildren, Penyacsek began wrestling and playing the piano at the age of 5. Having musical genes also helped. His grandfather played the piano and his great-great-grandfather played the piano for commercials.

But it didn’t take long for Penyacsek to trade in the black and white keyboard for a smaller, more easily transportable instrument. In the fifth grade, he started playing the clarinet and in eighth grade switched one wind instrument for another, moving to oboe.

The high school junior liked the fact that an oboe is more unique than the relatively popular clarinet.

Apparently, playing in the school band wasn’t enough for this competitive kid. Last year, Penyacsek auditioned for the San Jose Youth Symphony Orchestra. After a grueling audition, the teen found out that he’d not only made it but was one of about 200 invited to play in the philharmonic section, the top group of musicians.

Penyacsek also played his way to first chair. And this summer the philharmonic orchestra will perform at concert halls throughout Eastern Europe.

Once the high schooler puts down his oboe, his focus is wrestling. At 5, he joined the local wrestling club, the Gilroy Hawks, and has remained involved in the sport ever since.

His goal this year is to make the varsity squad. For now, he conditions with the team about three days a week, preparing for the upcoming season.

So here’s the question: what’s more nerve-racking, fighting it out on the mat or making music in a packed concert hall?

Definitely playing the oboe, ” ’cause wrestling, I just go out there and do my thing,” Penyacsek said.

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