Gutierrez a unique two-sport standout

San Benito High junior Juan Gutierrez repeated as an individual champion in the Pittsburg Pirate Invitational in late December. A two-sport standout, Gutierrez is hoping for a breakout season on the mat.

Standout two-sport athletes like Juan Gutierrez III are not uncommon in the high school landscape.
But the San Benito High junior is unique because of his sports of choice: cross country and wrestling. Although the two sports might be different on the surface, they’re remarkably similar in that athletes in both sports need to be mentally tough enough to endure long bouts of physical pain.
“When I’m in a cross-country race, I pretty much tell myself to keep going, and I need a similar mindset in wrestling to push through the pain,” said Gutierrez, who finished 13th in the Central Coast Section Division I race in November. “It’s all about not giving up when things get tough.”
The 5-foot-9 Gutierrez has proven his toughness time and again in both sports; two weeks ago he won the 132-pound weigh class in the Pittsburg Pirate Invitational, pinning all three of his opponents in the process.
In the same tournament a year ago, Gutierrez was victorious in the 120-pound division.
“At first I wasn’t sure if I could win again, but somehow I was able to pull if off,” Gutierrez said. “I was excited and know I was pumping my fist and clapping after my final match.”
After finishing in fifth place in the Monterey Bay League Championships and going 1-2 in the CCS Championships a year ago, Gutierrez plans on improving on those marks this season.
However, Gutierrez literally has no time to improve during the off-season—from wrestling season he heads straight to track before going into off-season cross-country training.
Even though Gutierrez has been wrestling since he was 4—his dad, Juan Jr., earned an athletic scholarship to wrestle at a four-year school—Gutierrez counts cross country as his favorite sport.
Barring an injury or a sudden lack of motivation, Gutierrez will run in college. However, wrestling will always have a special place in his heart.
“I’ve never taken a break from wrestling since I started,” he said. “My dad started me on the sport, and it’s been a great journey. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be wrestling. He’s meant everything to my career.”
After a grueling cross-country season that ended on the last weekend of November at the State Championships in Fresno, Gutierrez was at wrestling practice just two days later.
“The first day back at wrestling practice was horrible,” Gutierrez said, laughing. “I was so lacking in muscle strength that I was sore after the first day. That whole week was hell. But I’m getting into shape now, just doing a lot of pushups and situps and getting my strength back.”
San Benito wrestling coach Brian DeCarli has been working with Gutierrez to improve his bottom skills. Gutierrez is stronger from a standing position, as he is consistently able to score points off ankle picks.
However, the best wrestlers are strong on the bottom, and Gutierrez knows he has to improve from that position if he wants to reach his goal of winning a league title and placing in CCS.
Despite an impressive list of accomplishments in both sports, Gutierrez stays humble. Besides, Gutierrez can never get too full of himself since his dad, who is also the Haybalers junior varsity wrestling coach, critiques him after almost every match.
“My dad always gives me advice on what I did wrong and what I need to fix,” Gutierrez said. “He was my coach all the way up until high school, and he’s always wanted me to do my best.”
After bowing out of the CCS tournament last year, a couple of wins shy of a podium finish, Gutierrez has been motivated to have his best season yet.
“After getting eliminated from CCS, it made me want to push that much more to go past what I’ve already done so far,” Gutierrez said.

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