Gilroy High junior Ruben Le and his family made the cross country move a couple of years ago from Boston to what locals refer to as the garlic capital of the world.
However, it didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself competing in the 152-pound division for the Mustangs’ wrestling team.
Le let out a thunderous roar at the 53rd Pat Lovell Holiday Wrestling Classic after defeating Isaiah Lee of San Ramon Valley High for the first time in his career. His first win over his friendly rival came in the 152-pound division tournament championship on Dec. 22 at Aptos High.
“I’m just so happy, I worked so hard for it. I envisioned it, too,” Le said. “I put all my effort into that.”
Le, who went into the tournament as the No. 2 seed, finished with a 4-0 record. He won by a 3-2 decision over top-seeded Lee in the championship and it took every ounce of strength to do so.
“I had to wrestle with heart. I knew I was the better wrestler,” Le said. “I was the first seed, even though they gave [Lee] the first seed… I put so much into my training that I was confident that I had what it took to beat him.”
Le said during the summer he trained with Lee, who lost to him often. As a result, Le steadily improved as the season approached.
“I was passing people up and I just wanted to prove that I was getting better,” he said.
Le began his wrestling career in Boston starting in the sixth grade. He continued up to his freshman year but then he moved to Gilroy, where he quickly noticed a huge shift in competition.
Le mentioned there’s much more love, passion and investment into the sport here locally compared to Boston. Le added that not that many athletes on the East Coast participate in wrestling year-round or travel for tournaments.
“In Cali, the culture, the intensity and the passion people have into wrestling is different,” he said. “Easy a top-three state in the nation for wrestling.”
Le said joining Gilroy’s powerhouse program was the best decision he could’ve made when he moved to California. Out of all the sports teams in the Central Coast Section—encompassing the fall, winter and spring seasons—Gilroy’s proud wrestling team might be the very best.
The Mustangs, who have won 18 consecutive Central Coast Section titles, have finished as the state runner-up twice, the last coming in 2019. Le mentioned Gilroy coach Daniel Cormier, a former UFC champion and Olympian, is teaching them the best possible techniques.
“It elevates you to be the best you can be,” Le said. “From being a small-town kid in Gilroy to seeing all these national tournaments, all the best guys in the nation. It’s humbling and I love it.”
Le said he’s trained harder than ever following his sophomore season with the Mustangs and it’s paying off for him.
“I’m finally hanging up there with the top guys,” he said.
Le’s ultimate goal this season is to podium at the CIF State Championships and he’s hoping for at least a top eight finish. He’s currently ranked No. 3 in the CCS at 152 pounds and 33rd in the state. He looks to continue to develop and build his confidence as the Mustangs’ season progresses in the Pacific Coast League dual season.
Le is one of a fleet of GHS wrestlers who look to win CCS titles in late February. The Mustangs have another loaded team with the likes of Isaiah Cortez, Elijah Cortez, Daniel Glenn, Scotty Moore, Daniel Zepeda, Moses Mirabal, Donte Lopez, Zack Fierro, Doug Porter, Oscar Alfaro, Cody Merrill, and Nova Takafua.
Merrill is the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 195 pounds and took first at the Clovis West Shootout, Webber Lawson-Fremont and the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions, one of the toughest high school events in the nation.
Isaiah Cortez is ranked No. 5 in the state at 106 pounds and also took first at Clovis West, Webber Lawson and Reno TOC in his weight class.