Frank Trujillo Jr. will face the biggest challenge of his career tonight when he competes in the NCAA wrestling championships in Iowa, but he won't face it alone. Members of Trujillo's family are determined to be there in person as well as in spirit.
"We'll find a way to get there," Frank Sr. said. "Somewhere, the money will have to be borrowed. But our family rallies around each other and we're all extremely proud of each others' accomplishments."
The accomplishments of Frank Jr. are many. The Cal State Fullerton freshman has a 30-4 record in the 118-pound class, including a victory over the country's then-No. 1-ranked wrestler in his weight class, Utah State's Alfred Castro.
"Frank is, without a doubt, the top freshmen we've had come in here," said Dan Lewis, Fullerton coach. "We've had talented athletes before, but none that have done as well as he has so soon.
"And one thing that I think is important is Frank's relationship with his father. Frank didn't just come in here and become a winner. He's been a winner for years and I think his dad is responsible for that. He's really been the spark we've needed."
Indeed, Trujillo was a winner before this season. He compiled a 199-13 record at Covina High School, and placed in the top four at the state tournament for four years. He finished second as a sophomore and a senior.
Trujillo reached the NCAA championships last week when the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. coaches awarded him a wild-card berth.
Trujillo failed to win an automatic berth when he finished third in the PCAA championships Feb. 27 at Utah State. It was Trujillo's first action in several weeks after being sidelined because of a knee injury that may require surgery after the season.
Trujillo's success is not surprising considering his early start in the sport. When Trujillo was 4, his father, who wrestled for two years at Mt. SAC, introduced him to the world of takedowns and pins.
"We used to go down there where they had a recreation program and we'd roll around on the mats," Trujillo said.
Trujillo joined an Amateur Athletic Union program when he was 10, and further honed his skills until he entered high school.
"One thing I've tried to tell all of our kids is to try their best and have fun in what ever they do," Frank Sr. said. "If you do that, you're already a winner and if somehow you lose you should just stop and evaluate what you did wrong and try to improve."
Trujillo's brother, Tony, wrestles at Covina High and qualified for the state tournament as a freshmen. His sister, Sissy, competes in three sports at Covina.
They all look to their father for motivation. Frank Jr. said he received particularly good advice from his father before entering Fullerton.
"My dad has really been a big motivator for me," Trujillo said. "He reminded me that these are the same kids I competed with before and that I just have to keep improving. And since I've come here, I've seen myself improve about 25 times over. When I saw that improvement, that's when I started to get real confidence toward the collegiate level."
Said Lewis: "Right now, his potential is limitless. He could go all the way in the nationals in Iowa and win it this year. He's already beaten the top-ranked person in the nation, but a more realistic goal is for him to be an All-American. That would be an outstanding accomplishment if he achieves it. "He has all the tools to be a national champion--good mental toughness, good intensity and really all the technique he needs, but he can't let up in his intensity and concentration. It's possible he could after all this time, but I'm confident he won't. If he keeps working hard, I'm sure he could go to the Olympics in two years."