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Weighty Problem

Talented Cristobal Gonzalez Frustrates Moorpark With Lack of Motivation


MOORPARK — There have been times when his coaches have felt like planting a headlock, as well as a celebratory embrace, on Cristobal Gonzalez.

Motivation and discipline have never been strong suits of Gonzalez, a Moorpark College sophomore and among the best wrestlers to emerge from Ventura County.

Yet, somehow, talent and victories have.

Gonzalez, at 184 pounds, heads a strong Moorpark team poised to defend its state title this season. A state champion at 189 pounds for Ventura High in 1998, Gonzalez placed second in the state at 184 last season for Moorpark and is a favorite to add another state title to his resume.

Gonzalez turned in a typical performance in his first match of the season Wednesday. While Moorpark (5-1) recorded a hard-fought 22-15 victory over Fresno, Gonzalez, competing at 197 pounds and with a noticeable paunch, displayed an array of moves while manhandling Will Goodman, 19-3.

"I'm still trying to lose the weight and it shouldn't be a problem," Gonzalez said. "Running on my own is what it's going to come down to. If I just practice with the team, I won't be in shape."

Division I wrestling scholarships are few. But Gonzalez, whose state title was the first for a wrestler from the region since 1985, has the talent to earn one.

"Cris has intangibles you can't teach kids," said Coach Paul Keysaw of Moorpark, a former NCAA champion for Cal State Bakersfield. "He has an instinctive feel for wrestling. He has the innate ability to turn himself the right way."

He also has been prone to stray from the path.

Gonzalez has at times been a perplexing paradox for his mentors. As a senior at Ventura, Gonzalez breezed to a 56-3 record, culminated by a 5-4 overtime victory over David Schenk of Anderson.

Along the way, Gonzalez breezed through school, blowing off practice when he felt like it and cutting class.

Coach Paul Clementi of Ventura, frustrated by Gonzalez's truancy and apathy, suspended his best wrestler for the duration of a tournament. When Gonzalez failed to respond, Clementi considered cutting him from the team.

Gonzalez's turnaround was triggered by the onset of postseason competition. Suddenly, his desire kicked in.

"He always needed to do a better job conditioning himself," Clementi said. "Sometimes, he's a little behind the other wrestlers. Once he gets in condition, mentally, he'll be ready."

Gonzalez admits he is overweight because of his own lethargy during the off-season.

"A lot of my mom's home cooking," he said.

After an unhappy semester at Lassen College in Northern California, Gonzalez was pleased to transfer to Moorpark. But old habits die hard.

"I've had my run-ins with Cris," Keysaw said. "It took time for Cris to learn respect for me and respect for the program. He thought the transition to college would be easier. He thought that he would be the man and that didn't happen. But since he's been here, he's matured tenfold."

Maturity is evident in Gonzalez. Admittedly never a serious student, he said he has dedicated himself equally to academics and athletics.

Gonzalez credits Keysaw for improving his wrestling technique and has become a student of the sport as much as a competitor.

"I've been out of control," Gonzalez said. "But I'm more disciplined now. A lot of times, I let people do things for me, people letting me have a lot of chances. I let other people pick my classes. I did what I wanted to do. I wasn't taking care of myself."

Competition has helped Gonzalez stay focused. Bouts are more difficult, opponents more determined at the college level.

The challenge, Gonzalez said, is what has always motivated him.

"In high school, it was easy for me," Gonzalez said. "College is a whole different story. In high school, you get a grab on a guy's leg, he falls down. In college, he won't give it up."

Gonzalez's goal is to drop to 184 pounds in time for a rematch with state runner-up Palomar on Friday at Palomar.

He estimates his weight at 190.

"Going heavier is not an option," he said. "I should be at 184 by Friday. And I'll be in shape."

Saul Lucatero (149) was 32-2 for the Raiders last season and placed third in the state last season.

The Raiders have three freshmen who placed among the top eight in the state finals last season: Andrew Onsurez (125) from East Bakersfield, Steve Hernandez (157) from Bakersfield Foothill and heavyweight Ben Flores from Hollister.

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