By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
When Tony Castaneda made the choice to pursue wrestling instead of soccer, his father was a bit disappointed.
“Soccer was my sport and I felt like I had a lot I could teach him,” said Richard, Tony’s father.
As of this month, there is little doubt Tony made the right decision. On March 14, the 13-year-old won the Oregon Middle School State Tournament. In February, he took second in the OWA Kids State Folksyle Tournament and won the Rumble in Reno Feb. 28.
The Rumble earned him the biggest prize, a pro-wrestling-style belt.
“I went up to the table figuring I’d get a trophy and they handed me a belt. It was really cool,” said Tony, an 102-pounder.
The match that won Tony the belt was actually a rematch with Nevada’s Beau Chacon. Beau had beaten Tony for third place in the same tournament last year.
“I knew I could do it last year, but the coaches got into it and there was a lot of that going on,” Tony said. “This year, we were 5-5 in the third round and he is really good at escaping. I did a roll and caught him with a near-fall that put me ahead.”
He won the match – and the title – 10-5.
A little over a week later, Tony took second in the Kids State Folkstyle and then won the state title at 102 pounds March 7.
In the state tournament, Tony won his first match by pin in 49 seconds, his second match in a 6-0 decision, a third match in an 8-2 decision, and the title with a 4-2 decision.
However, he bristles at the notion of “winning his way” through a tournament.
“There was no easy match. Every kid at a tournament is tough,” he said.
Tony started wrestling in fourth grade because he was being bullied and hoped to deter his tormentors, but his parent encouraged him to stick with it.
“One of his football coaches at Boys & Girls Club told him about the wrestling practice at McNary (High School),” Richard said. “Now, he has so much more confidence and he’s more outgoing. He’ll just go up and talk to whoever.”
The younger Castaneda is also incredibly well-spoken for an eighth grader.
Tony’s accomplishments on the mat caught the eye of Jason Ebbs, McNary head wrestling coach, early on.
“He clearly has a desire to compete, and be competitive at the high levels of wrestling. As I have watched him wrestle, he does a good job of being aggressive and has developed his fundamental skills in a way that he is not afraid to attack and he is not afraid to lose. I am looking forward to working with him as he comes to high school and developing him even further,” Ebbs said.
Tony already has his sights set on a state championship once he’s in high school, but his more immediate goals are on the Whiteaker Middle School track and field team.
“I thought I could have done better than I did last year, I want to be the best in anything I do now,” he said. “I’m more happy than I’ve ever been.”