The moment Diego Barajas steps onto the wrestling mat, he transforms from a quiet student to a forceful opponent.
At 5 foot 6 inches and 106 pounds, the Saint Francis High School junior is in the lightweight division of his school’s varsity wrestling team and placed third in the Central Coast Section Championship last season.
The lightweight division, the lightest of the 14 high school wrestling classes, consists of wrestlers ranging from 106 to 132 pounds, according to the California Interscholastic Federation.
Barajas acknowledged that although there is an idea that lighter means weaker, he views the categorization as a lightweight wrestler as just a part of the sport.
Barajas has been wrestling in the lightweight division since grade school, and has confidence in his abilities to maintain his place as a lightweight.
“All my life, I’ve always been on the smaller, lighter side,” Barajas said. “I think most lighter weight wrestlers are light for most of their lives, like me.”
Diego said he is also constantly training and keeps up a healthy lifestyle, which makes it easy for him to maintain his weight.
Wrestling is demanding; it being an intensely contact sport, Barajas said the training and competitions take dedication.
“When you want to get to a high level and keep the state ranking, we do conditioning everyday, running [and] weight rooms twice a week, and of course wrestling, always,” Barajas said. “In general with wrestling, our bodies tend to get banged up. Trying to stay healthy is important.”
The support of his team — which he described as a “brotherhood” — gives Barajas the motivation to keep working towards his goals. Friend and fellow wrestler Dillon Scott said that Barajas’s motivation and skills as a wrestler are inspiring to every division of the team.
“He gives his all every time he is on the mat,” Scott said. “[Diego] is the best 106 by far. Diego is the guy [to go to] when guys get down, or had a bad match.”
While wrestling is an individual sport, Barajas’s wins can also score points for his team in dual matches, in which a team’s points across all matches are tallied.
“We all do a really good job at pushing each other and supporting each other,” Barajas said. “Going out there individually, you want to win, but also want your teammates to win, especially in duels.”
Barajas said he has watched the team recover from past seasons where there were less achievements throughout the time he’s been on the team. The team rose to third place in the CCS championship last season, its first success in years of Saint Francis wrestling.
“[The key to success] comes from us being close and being able to push each other,” Barajas said. “As a whole, we hope to climb the ranking even higher [and] try to get into the top fifteen [statewide ranking] this season.”
Wrestling is a major part of Barajas’ life. After all, Barajas has “been wrestling for forever,” he said.
“My dad wrestled in high school and I have an older brother that wrestled as well, so I was really brought into it,” Barajas said.
Barajas’ father also worked as a wrestling coach, which attributes to the Barajas family “legacy,” said teammate Dillon Scott.
Barajas’ personal goals are ambitious. He said he wants to win the CCS championships and place in the state championships both this year and in his senior year. And after that, he said he hopes to continue wrestling in college.