Inderkum Athlete Returns to the Mat in Master’s Bid

Ruben Escalante / Photo: Jeremiah McWright

Inderkum High School senior Ruben Escalante, 17. / Photo: Jeremiah McWright, NHS intern

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A year ago in March, Ruben Escalante felt dejected. He was exhausted from the long wrestling season grind which hadn’t turned out as he expected following a sensational sophomore season the year before.

Escalante, now a senior for the Inderkum High School wrestling team, stormed onto the scene at a 10th grader with a sixth place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Master’s tournament and qualified for the CIF Wrestling Championships.

But a third round loss on day one of the Master’s tournament in Stockton in 2013, his junior year, was the tipping point for Escalante. He went home that night. Despite qualifying for day two and a shot at a second berth to the state meet, he never came back.

His opponent was awarded the forfeit win. Escalante was labeled a quitter.

He admits the rigors under then-first-year coach August Wesley and the new coaching staff at Inderkum was a lot harder than anything Escalante had endured previously. The practices were too hard. The in-your-face approach by Wesley was not what Escalante wanted. In his mind, he was too good to be pushed so hard.

“There are possibly people that think I quit,” Escalante said. “They probably think I should have gone harder. There is nothing I can say about it. I did quit.”

Escalante’s commitment to the sport was shot. He spent the summer doing little, and wrestling was the farthest thing from his mind.

But that all changed when school started in August and he saw his teammates start to gear up for the season. He wanted back. He didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who quit at the highest level in the section.

“If I were to go back into that situation, I wouldn’t change much because I feel it made me better this year,” said Escalante, now 17. “I threw the whole year out the door. It was a whole year wasted.”

He’s back, and according to Wesley, the senior captain for Inderkum is better than ever.

“I think it was a learning process for Ruben,” Wesley said. “I think that for him, it was a big change. It was a new coaching staff and he had a new type of motivation. I think that grind last year was a little too much for him.”

Added Escalante, “I am actually pushing myself this year. Last year, I was just trying to get through the season. In my head I was going to state again. Why wouldn’t I? I went to state as a sophomore, why would I go (my junior year)? I took it for granted. Now I am taking this one more seriously.”

Escalante is not currently on the radar as a Master’s title contender, but he’s OK with that.

“That’s how it was my whole sophomore year because no one knew who I was at the beginning of the year,” Escalante said. “By the end, I was a state qualifier. I feel like everyone is underestimating me again.”

At 126 pounds this season, Escalante has posted a 33-5 record including a first round pin against River Valley last Wednesday to help the Tigers improve to 3-1 in Tri-County Conference duels. The athlete finished in first place for his weight class at The Pound Invitational in San Rafael on Saturday, Jan. 25.

Escalante has also been training with Wesley’s son, Anthony, who is a state-hopeful at 120 pounds for Jesuit High School. Inderkum coaching staff also brought in former Olympian Anthony Amado to help Escalante and the rest of the team improve their craft on the mat.

It’s all in the name of getting back to where he wants to be – on the podium this March.

“I love the underdog role because when I go in there, no one is expecting me to win,” Escalante said. “They are expecting a tough match, but not expecting me to win.”

Escalante spars with a teammate to warmup for a recent duel match. / Photo: Jeremiah McWright

Escalante spars with a teammate to warmup at a recent duel match. / Photo: Jeremiah McWright, NHS intern


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