VISALIA – Darius Picar nearly made Garces wrestling coach Robert Fowler speechless, a feat that doesn’t come around very often.
But after Picar pinned his opponent in the third place match at the Central Section Division IV championships at Visalia-Golden West on Saturday, both Picar and Fowler let out primal screams of elation as the two embraced each other.
It was the culmination of one of the greatest feats Fowler has witnessed in 10 years as a high school wrestling coach.
During his freshman year, Picar had never set foot on a wrestling mat. Fowler persuaded him to come out and join the team.
In his high school varsity career, Picar, who missed his junior year because of injury, had a career record of 11-20 heading into the weekend’s tournament.
But Picar went 5-1 over the weekend at 106 pounds, culminating in the third place finish, automatically qualifying for the Central Section Masters Championships next Friday and Saturday at Fresno-Hoover.
“He stays in great shape. He’s one of the hardest workers,” Fowler said. “He doesn’t have the technique, but you can’t tell. He steps on the mat and becomes a different kid. He’s mean. He hates losing, but you talked to him or knew him at school, you would never think the kid is a wrestler.”
Picar, who is also a cheerleader for Garces, is a quiet yet engaging young man off the mat. He won four of his five matches over the weekend coming from behind.
“All that matters is that you work hard,” Picar said. “Throughout journeys, you are going to experience so many failures. Everyone, including yourself, are going to tell you that you can’t do it. You forget about all of that and keep on pushing through.”
Fowler remembers vividly his favorite moment of his coaching career.
It was two years ago when then-Garces senior Isaiah Martin pinned the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the state at the CIF State championships.
This weekend’s performance by Picar ranks right up there.
“It’s a close second, if not tied for first,” Fowler said. “What just happened this weekend, it’s so impressive, I don’t have words for it.”
Picar, who is not a year-round wrestler with commitments to the cheer squad and as a member of the Garces cross country team, does not possess the normal skill set of a Masters qualifier.
Fowler says his grit and determination is what has kept him from getting pinned just once in 37 career varsity matches.
“He’s been pinned one time in three years,” Fowler said. “That’s his hard work.”
Now with his senior season extended at least one more week, Picar is ready to get back in the practice room on campus gearing up for the biggest sectional championship in California.
“Never give up because you never know what can happen in the end,” Picar said. “I love this sport because you can be down by 10 points and the opponent can be winning and relaxing, but that last 30 seconds, anything can happen. It’s so important not to give up because once you give up, you ruin any chance you have.”