Wrestling is more than just brute strength for GHS grappler

Gilroy’s Nick Villarreal is a CCS and national freshman champion, but one of his biggest opponents is getting over the mental hurdle of competing, which he continues to accomplish thanks to help from family.

Nick Villarreal is a quiet, unassuming humble kid at first glance.
That is unless you’ve seen him on the mat.
As a freshman, he already has a CCS title under his belt. A CIF State Finals appearance. A Freshman National Championships title. A second place at Mid Cals, only losing to a kid who took second in the state. He was recognized for his efforts by being named co-Freshman of the Year for Gilroy High School.
Basically, he’s the epitome of what the Gilroy wrestling program is.
His brother was a former CCS champion who took sixth at state his senior year.
Villarreal’s father owns a tile company where he works during the summer..
Basically, he has the experience of an honest day’s work as well as the experience of working every muscle to become a champion.
And becoming a champion is not easy because there is one muscle that you can’t work out on the practice mat; it has to be worked in competition and with experience: The brain.
Villarreal said wrestling in front of the large crowds on the national stage.
“It was kind of scary being in front of a bunch of people,” Villarreal said. “It was my first time at that tournament, so not only do I have to prepare physically but mentally. And that’s a huge part trying not to make myself feel so intimidated.”
He said a lot of the preparation happens in side of the training room, but there is a key bit of preparation before matches of making sure he gets into the right head space.
“Once I’m in the match, all of that goes away,” Villarreal said. “It’s just like I’ve got to win this and when you do, it feels great. A lot of pressure relieved, but you got to go out and do it again.”
The ability to block every distraction from his mind isn’t easy, but it’s here that Villarreal gives his parents a lot of credit.
“I’ve gotten pretty good at that because of my parents. They’re always telling me to not let words get to you from what other people are saying or what you think is going to happen” Villarreal said. “I usually underestimate myself when it comes to stuff like that. It took me a while to get used to it.”
Villarreal said that really sunk in a year ago when he went to overtime against a kid
He was in Virginia for a duel competition and he knew he had to get a win for his team.
“In that moment I was like, ‘I need to give it my all right here just to win this match and win the duel for my team,’” Villarreal said. “After that, I realized it’s going to be the same in every match. None of these matches are going to come easy any more.”
Villarreal said his family are huge when it comes to a support network for his wrestling.
He said his parents and his brother Juan Villarreal all make sure he is eating right, doing the correct work outs and helping him with diet plans when he needs to cut weight for a tournament or for the start of a season.
And when he is about to step on to the mat, his family is there to give him encouragement.
“My brother before all my matches tells me to ‘wrestle like it’s your last match,’ and that always gets me a little hyped up to try to beat this kid,” Villarreal said. “They always try to get the best out of me for my wrestling.”
Villarreal said in middle school when he realized just how important wrestling was for him, he started to really watch what his brother was doing as a bench mark for where he could potentially go.
“I just saw how well he was doing and how aggressive he was on the mat. He never really cared. He just went out there and tried,” Villarreal said.
Villarreal laughed when asked if the two brothers would wrestle as kids, saying it was always a competition to see who was better.
But of course the older Juan would usually win because he was bigger and a little more experienced.
The Villarreals got started when they were little when their parents found out about an opportunity to get their sons involved in wrestling.
That kicked off a small team from Hollister—that also included Christopher’s Adam Mena who Villarreal defeated for his first CCS title—calling themselves “The Garage Boys.”
Villarreal has high aspirations for his tenure at Gilroy, including a state championship.
And those aspirations started early for him, including a realization in middle school that he could be among the greats who have stepped on the practice mats at GHS.
“After soccer practice in middle school, I came in and thought, ‘this is a pretty big program here and has produced a lot of good people and it feels pretty good because I could be one of those people.”

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