SAFFORD — Back on May 29-31, Safford’s Kaleb Cordova competed for the AZ Elite wrestling team in Pueblo, Colo., and came back with an impressive 9-0 win streak.
Father Michael Cordova said, “I’m super proud of him. It’s hard to express in words. He’s taken in everything I can show him.”
Michael got his son into wrestling at a young age. It took some time for the sport to click; but once it did, this last dual meet shows how far Kaleb has come.
“I’ve been helping Herman (Andrews, coach) for about 14 years now. I like the assistant role. I’ve been taking Kaleb in there for a long time, and I kept telling Herman, ‘I’m scared. I don’t know if my son’s going to be a wrestler.’ And he told me to keep bringing him in. Let him run around some days. He’s going to be watching, and those are the days we both look for. Let him be around it. When Kaleb was 9 years old, he came to me and told me, ‘Dad, I think I want to wrestle. Now I’m ready. I want to do it.’ I turned around and looked up to the sky and was like, ‘Thank you, God.’ ”
When asked how it felt to get those nine wins, Kaleb said, “It felt really good, really nice. I didn’t feel any extra pressure to go 9-0 come the last round. I was just focused on beating the guy in front of me. I wrestled only one of them before.”
When facing new opponents, Cordova prefers to get to know their moves before executing an action plan.
“I go out there and use my own moves. I like to use what they don’t like to use,” Kaleb said.
With nine opponents in one weekend, not only does it take a significant athletic effort, it takes mental focus; Cordova prays to keep him focused.
The road trips are often short on company when it comes to having friends and family around, but Cordova has a supportive group who give him all the support they can before he hits the road.
Based on what his opponents and other coaches and parents are saying, Cordova exudes a humble energy both on and off the mat.
“Whenever I win or lose, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the respect I gain. When I went 9-0 up there. The special thing is not winning; it’s coming off the mat and the parents come up to me and say, ‘You are a very humble kid. We appreciate that.’ That always brings a good thing to me. I like humble stuff. I don’t like cocky people. I’m always as humble as I can possibly be. It always gives me a good day. I’m always grateful to walk off the mat, and not get carried off the stretcher,” Kaleb said.
Being carted off on a stretcher is something Kaleb has experienced.
“I didn’t like it,” he said.
It was his second year of wrestling (he was in fourth grade) and in the finals for the first time against an eighth-grader. His opponent did a fireman’s carry, picked Kaleb off the ground and dropped him on his neck.
“My neck bent like a rubber band. I got to the hospital and we showed the doctors the video, and they said it was a miracle that I’m walking today, so that’s why I’m grateful every time I can walk off. I see kids who have some disabilities go out there and do well, and I always like to congratulate them,” Kaleb said.
After sustaining a neck injury serious enough to put a person out of commission for a year, a lot of people would be terrified of facing the thing that hurt them, but Kaleb admitted he was never really afraid of going back.
“It was just a temporary setback, and I was eager to get back on the mat,” he said.
The Cordovas are aiming to head to Atlantic City, N.J., at the end of July for another round of competition, and then San Diego on Aug. 1-2.