Newman University’s one and only NCAA DII national champion is back on the wrestling mat — this time in a different country.
Noel Torres ’18 competed in the 2019 Mexican National Championship Dec. 7 and won the 84kg freestyle competition.
He ended his college wrestling career on top as the college’s first and, so far, only NCAA individual national champion. He returned to the team as a coach for one season while he finished his Master of Business Administration degree but after moving on to a career, he just couldn’t let wrestling go.
Torres decided leaving the competition lifestyle behind wasn’t an option, so he looked into ways he could continue his passion.
“I still have that fire in me to compete,” Torres said. “So I was just thinking, ‘What’s next for me? What can I do to still compete?’ And the Olympics popped up.”
Torres’ family is from Mexico but he is an American citizen, so his first step was to obtain dual-citizenship in order to compete for Mexico. Filing all of the proper paperwork was a challenge but training for the mat came naturally for Torres.
He started working out with the ROTC at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in preparation for the national tournament, the qualifying round for the Olympic trials.
He said he’s enjoyed his time at OSU and learned a lot there. His coaches include successful wrestlers such as Chris Perry, Tyler Caldwell, John Smith and various other big names in the wrestling world.
The training itself has been rigorous and one of his bigger challenges is working out with high-level wrestlers every day, he said.
Going back each day just to “get thrown in with the wolves … and try to get the best of them” is tough, he said.
“To have the training partners that I have, it’s just awesome. But it’s challenging every day, you know. It’s wrestling, so it’s a daily grind.”
The Dec. 7 tournament Torres attended was the qualifier for the Olympic trials. He competed in Guanajuato, Mexico, and his first match was against a competitor he lost to at the last national tournament he competed in. This time, he won and advanced to the next round.
He said the national tournament was unlike the competitions he was used to.
“It was a long day, it took forever. I sat around a lot before I wrestled and then between matches I sat around a lot. So that was challenging to not be able to stay warm and active throughout the day.”
The tournament was set up in pools and Torres said it took everything he had to win his final match. Trailing 4-to-1, he rallied back to beat his opponent 5-to-4.
“It was good for me to have to dig deep and find a way to win,” he said.
As the Mexican national champion, his next step is winning a spot on the Olympic team during the trials at the end of January.
He’ll then travel to the Pan American Championship in March, and if he places in the top two there, he’ll be a starter on the Mexican national team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.