CdM's Nguyen conquers challenge, wins PCL title

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Sea Kings' wrestling coaches push senior to improve and 138-pounder eventually responds with league championship.

February 08, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Scott Smeltzer…)

As a kid, Paul Nguyen played soccer, basketball and tennis. He says he wasn't very good in any of those sports.

Soccer and basketball proved to be a challenge because of his lack of size.

As the goalkeeper, he was unable to get to soccer balls that required him to jump and get them.

In basketball, he had a hard time getting shots off. When he did, he had a weird shot that didn't really have a chance of going in.

"I was OK at tennis," Nguyen said before going into why he gave up on the sport. "I just really hated picking up the balls."

Nguyen still wanted play a sport when he enrolled at Corona del Mar High as a freshman. He picked the least popular one on campus, and for the wrong reason.

"I'll join wrestling," Nguyen said. "I don't have to run."

He quickly found out that running is one of the most essential things to do in his new sport.


He ran a lot. He got beat up a lot.

"I wasn't very good on frosh-soph, either," Nguyen said of his first season.

His mother, Sam, worried.

"Paul, you're going to get hurt," Sam would say. "I don't like this sport. I get a heart attack every time you go wrestle."

Nguyen's father, Alex, did his best to calm Sam down, saying their son was going to be fine.

Nguyen stuck with the sport. He says he began to feel athletic, coordinated and fast. Each year, he improved.

Then before this season, his final one, Nguyen, who is 5-foot-4, thought about quitting. He didn't know if he wanted to continue anymore.

"I started to get burned out," said Nguyen, who still showed up for his senior season despite his concerns on whether he could handle another year of the demanding sport.

He didn't have cut too much weight, even though he planned to wrestle at 138 pounds for the second straight season.

Things began to click in the wrestling room. He was confident in his technique. He says he felt like he could take down anybody.

He proved it when the season began. He was pinning most of his opponents.

Halfway through the season, Nguyen wanted to quit again. It wasn't because he wasn't winning almost every time, because he was. It was because he was losing in practice.

"I'd been getting beat up," Nguyen said. "The competition in the room shot up. [Assistant coaches Matt] Lopez and [Seth] Seneca, they just made the intensity of the room just shoot up, which made our entire team just so much better. And I wasn't used to that. I was used to just to going in, just flying through people.

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