Sports

Preston Gannon: Ruling the mat for the Raiders

By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
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In any sport, preparation and practice make a lot of difference when it comes to finding success, but when that preparation is focused on one person, it can become that much more intense.

Sonora wrestler Preston Gannon takes pride in the amount of dedication and preparation he puts in before each and every match and he earned his second consecutive Freeway League championship at 132 pounds in the Freeway League finals, Feb. 2.

The senior defeated Fullerton’s Jose Goena 10-4 in the semis before defeating Sunny Hills’ Tommy Valenzuela in the finals by a score of 5-3.
However, Valenzuela was also a defending league champion, but he dropped down two weight classes before this season, which made Preston’s win even more impressive.

“I had no idea what to expect in the finals because my opponent stepped down from 140s,” Gannon said. “I thought it would be over quickly and I gave him the upper hand, but when we went to shake hands…I told myself I was capable of winning and that I wasn’t going to give up or give in to the demons inside my head.”

Gannon’s coach, Dave Carrizosa said that Preston’s ability to motivate himself was a key factor in his Freeway League championship.
The coach also said that he noticed Preston’s inner frustration after his first match against Goena.

“It was after the first match, where he pulled off a close victory against [Goena],” Carrizosa said of the point he knew Preston would have a good day. “I saw him talking to himself because he didn’t wrestle as hard as he did and I knew because of that he was going to be tough to beat in the finals. He definitely motivates himself, there’s no need to push him, he has his own little bubble.”

Preston said the reason for that frustration and, perhaps unusual performance, were a result of an expectation to face off against senior Carlos Olmos from Buena Park, who Preston said was dropped a weight class to try to win the league title from him.

Individual focus, preparation and intense training, both physical and mental, are factors that lead to Preston’s success on the mat.
The senior said that the help of first-year assistant coach Chris Chambers only helped to strengthen those qualities.

“He was a Division 1 athlete and I had never really known intensive drilling until he came in,” Preston said. He showed me what it was like to be more like the top wrestlers and it really helped. He and [Ernie Hernandez] really motivated and inspired me in the room.”
On the team, Carrizosa describes Preston as a leader on and off the mat because of the example he sets.

According to the coach, before practices, Preston prepares himself by going on individual runs and he does extra work in order to make sure he’s prepared for the season.

However, with all that intense focus and training, like most athletes, Preston does find time every now and then to take a break. Perhaps not surprisingly, he uses another physical activity to unwind.

“I like riding my bike, it’s really fun and a way to clear my head,” he said. “I don’t have to impress anyone or compete, it’s just me going out and doing what I like to do, it’s a way of me being free.”

After wrestling season is complete, Preston will move to the pool, where he is a member of the diving team.
He cites Economics and Government as his favorite classes so far during his senior year.

“After this I do diving and I really enjoy it, he said. “I’m an ex-gymnast, so I do have fun diving too.”

But before he can head to the pool, the senior will do battle in CIF, where Carrizosa said his weight class is one of the toughest this year.
“I feel great about him going in,” Carrizosa said. “It’s going to be a tough bracket.”

Preston qualified for the CIF Southern Section Masters Tournament this weekend at Temecula Valley High School, and he said that he wants to hopefully make the State bracket.

“It’s definitely an overall goal to go on to Masters and State, but looking at it beyond the tournament could be stressful,” Preston said. “I just have to keep doing what I’ve always done, I can’t change anything because it might throw me off. I have to train for one match at a time and capitalize on what’s going to make me tired in order to fix it in practice.”

With the way he’s been able to overcome mental demons and the intensity of his training, opponents will have to put in extra work themselves if they want any chance at wrestling a victory from him.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.