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February 28, 2021

Wrestling: Gilroy’s Corona heading to Athens

GILROY—Butterflies fluttered in Matt Corona’s stomach as he took the mat May 7. Eight long months of intense dieting, training and wrestling led to this moment, but after a 15-year layoff, Corona understandably was nervous.
Then he saw his coach—his 9-year-old son Logan—in his corner at the 2015 Veterans Freestyle National Championships and the nerves melted away.
Though Logan could barely see over the elevated mats at the Las Vegas arena, his presence propelled Matt to a third place finish, which secured his spot in the 2015 Veterans Freestyle and Greco-Roman World Championships taking place Oct. 13-18 in Athens, Greece.
“(Logan) got to see me in a different light other than just dad,” Matt said. “When he came down and was in my corner, it was very calming. He gave me a lot of motivation.”
Logan and his sisters, Finley, 6, and Harper, 4, were the driving factors that kicked off the 38-year-old Matt’s journey to return to wrestling—and Logan was by his father’s side the whole time.
Matt’s biggest goal for the U.S. Open was to make weight at 85 kilograms—or 187.2 pounds—and he had to shed 58 pounds to do it. To help Matt get there, Logan ran, sparred and flipped tires with his dad and the entire Corona family changed its diet in an act of solidarity.
“I was really proud of him,” Logan said of his dad’s performance at the national tournament. “He did really good.”
The father-son bond has always been important to Matt, but even more so since his own father died. Wrestling was a huge part of Matt and his father’s relationship. His dad attended every one of Matt’s meets and he said he’s determined to have the same bond with Logan.
“I wanted wrestling to be a big part of his life because it’s one of the only things that I can do well,” Matt said. “After my dad passed, I said I have to have that kind of relationship, if not better, with him.”
But Matt had to get healthy first.
He was tipping the scales at 245 pounds, which wasn’t good for his health or his job as a physical education teacher at Silver Creek High School in San Jose.
And to get in shape, Matt turned to wrestling.
Matt has been engulfed in wrestling since he was in diapers. Before he could stand, he was at Gilroy Hawks practices and was carried around by the club’s founder, Charlie Morales. Matt joined the squad when he was 3 and was instantly hooked.
Morales watched Matt transform from a toddler learning takedowns to a man who is ready to take on the world. And he couldn’t be prouder of him.
“He comes from a community of champions and heroes,” Morales said. “It’s awesome to see a young man now wrestling again.”
Matt went on to wrestle at South Valley, where he won a county championship. He then suited up for the Mustangs and won a league title, placed twice at the Central Coast Section tournament, qualified for the state meet twice, taking fourth his senior year, and earned a wrestling scholarship to California State University, Bakersfield.
Even with his impressive wrestling resume, he feels it doesn’t hold a candle to the accomplishments of the modern-era Gilroy High wrestlers. The Mustangs, he said, look up to alums like 2014 grad Nikko Villarreal, who has three state championships, and 2011 grad Jesse Delgado, a back-to-back NCAA champion for the University of Illinois.
As a coach both at Brownell Middle School and Gilroy High, Matt said he needed to bolster his accomplishments in order to be a role model for the next generation of Garlic City greats.
Matt’s third place finish at this year’s freestyle nationals, he said, helps him add some credibility when working with Gilroy’s wrestlers. And if he can win or place in Athens, he’ll feel even better.
“I want to win really bad,” Matt said. “The athletic standards have been raised so high around town, but none so more than wrestling.”
As he preps for Athens Matt is determined to get stronger. He’s been hitting the gym with Logan and Gilroy High wrestlers Noe Garcia and Tony Andrade have been providing him with tough competition.
Cutting weight was Matt’s focus for the U.S. Open, but for Athens he’s determined to get stronger. Gilroy High wrestlers Noe Garcia and Tony Andrade have provided tough competition for him and he’s been hitting the gym with Logan to prepare for the world’s best wrestlers.
Matt admitted he was weary about making the trek to Greece as it would cost a pretty penny to do so. But it was his wife, Melanie, who told him he couldn’t pass up the chance to wrestle where the sport was born.
The Gilroy wrestling community has shown its full support for Matt’s journey to Athens and his Gofundme page is just $755 short of the $8,000 goal as of press time.
“Now that I’m going and it’s not my money, I feel even more pressure to win,” Matt said. “I feel like I owe it them to win.”
Any money raised over the goal will go to helping Tanner McNabb, a 10-year-old Gilroy boy with Type I diabetes, get a guide dog.
“If through my journey it gets me to do the things I wanted to do and help someone else, that’s what it’s all about,” Matt said.
To donate to Matt’s journey to Athens, visit

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