OTHELLO - The first thing that grabs his attention as he walks into the room at PJ Taggares Gym is the Othello wrestling history on the board, the names, the championship teams, the commitment to excellence.
Last year, Isaiah Perez (285) and Chris Melo (106) added their names to that board. The year before, it was Reese Jones (170) and TJ Martinez (195). Being a part of that Huskies tradition is the driving force in the room where champions are forged.
“A lot of those guys that are up on the wall are still in the practice room, working with us. They’re in there passing down the knowledge and what it takes to the next guy up,” said Perez, who went 95-4 and won the 2A state championship at 285 pounds a year ago. “It’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve learned from Freddy Flores (a two-time state champion in 2005-06). He made me realize all the work that goes into it.
“That’s my goal this year is to go undefeated and win another state championship.”
Championships start in the room.
His day starts at 6 a.m. where the team does conditioning before school. He does the normal practice schedule, then stays a half hour to an hour afterwards to do extra work with head coach Rudy Ochoa II, who is in his fourth season since taking over for the legendary Huskies coach Ruben Martinez.
“By putting in the extra work, I’ll be in better shape and my technique will be way more sound than my opponents, because they’re not doing the work I am,” said Perez, who held off Cy Hicks of Tumwater 1-0 in an epic battle for the 285-pound championship the 2A Mat Classic tournament last year.
“The competition in practice is what really keeps me focused. My partner (Elijah Roylance) is really good too and he always pushes me. We never let up.”
Even though he’s just a junior, Perez goes into the 2018-19 season as the defending 2A state champion at 285. A year ago, he dethroned the reigning king Hicks, who was considered the best heavyweight wrestler in the state — in any classification — according to Washington Wrestling Report. Now the target is squarely on his back moving forward.
“The thing with Isaiah is that he’s the type of athlete that that’s constantly looking to improve himself,” Ochoa II said. “He’s always looking at where he needs more work, so I think he’s got that right mindset that will make a difference.
“He really is a champion in all aspects, in the room, outside of the room. For someone that’s so talented naturally, he puts in that over-the-top extra work to separate himself from his peers.”