‘Big kids’ Erik and Jose Garcia see growth over time

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Photo by: Mary Beth Nolan

Article written by: KALEB CARTER Email Follow Dec. 16, 2019

DeKALB – Erik and Jose Garcia of Genoa-Kingston wrestling weren’t quite sure what was in store for them when they took to wrestling in middle school.

Neither Erik Garcia, a junior who now wrestles at 220 pounds, or Jose Garcia, a senior who wrestles at 285 pounds, had done the sport before, and the middle school and high school wrestling programs were far from well-established.

“We were just looking for a sport to do, and that was the only sport that was up and basketball, but we decided to go for wrestling since we’re big kids,” Erik Garcia said with a smile.

Not that there weren’t reservations early.

“I got him into it,” Erik Garcia said of his brother. “He didn’t really want to, but then he ended up going to it, and he enjoyed it, and I did too, so we stayed with it.”

They were only joined by a few wrestlers their first year, when Jose Garcia was a seventh-grader and Erik was in sixth grade.

“I started wrestling in middle school, and I saw three or five kids, me and my brother and some other four kids, and it was really small in middle school,” Jose Garcia said. “But we continued going.”

From there, it was an upward climb to relevance in a school with no wrestling banners hung in the gym.

“We weren’t that good to begin with, but then we just liked [it], so we just kept going with it,” Erik Garcia said.

Watching the duo on the practice mats can be a fun endeavor for the wrestlers and their coaches.

“It’s great to watch them battle, especially when they’re brothers. There’s more to it,” said 160-pound wrestler Will Butterfield. “It’s a fun show for us to watch. They get into it and push each other real hard.”

For the Cogs’ coaching staff, which has grown the program significantly since the Garcias were in middle school – Genoa-Kingston has 30 wrestlers listed on its roster this season – seeing the duo’s success is rewarding.

“Sometimes you can tell it’s that brother rivalry, but they both work really hard,” Cogs coach Chad Wilmarth said. “They push each other in the right way, and Cody Peterson’s in that group, too. All three guys football players. All three guys that don’t like to lose.”

Both brothers achieved a small level of success a season ago, as Erik went 13-3 before dislocating his elbow in a competition at Polo. Jose was 10-3 before being injured as well.

Erik Garcia recently took third at a tournament at Richmond-Burton, where Jose took second, losing only to Lake Forest’s Jack Owen, the No. 7 ranked wrestler in Class 2A by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. Saturday, Erik Garcia won a tournament title at Plano, while Jose took third. Erik Garcia has a 10-1 record this season, while Jose Garcia is 11-2.

With this, the last season they’ll be competing with one another after picking up the sport together, both have goals in mind, starting with more postseason success for the Cogs, who finished sixth at their home Class 1A Genoa-Kingston Regional.

Individual success fuels them as well.

“I’m just trying to get 30-plus wins,” Erik Garcia said. “I’m trying not to lose more than five [matches], and I’m trying to make it to state.”

Whatever doubts Jose had after last season’s injury were silenced by the motivation to be better in his final year.

“I’ve just got to [make] it worth it and see what else can I do,” Jose Garcia said. “Get a couple more wins than last time. That’s all I was thinking, get a little bit better over time. That’s what I was looking forward to.”

Now, the motivation to hang banners is on the Garcia brothers’ minds.

“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve never seen any titles for wrestling,” Jose Garcia said. “If we do, they’re really old. It’d be really nice if we put something in there this year.”