By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
As a heavyweight, Northview High School wrestler Chris Auxier was one of the best in the CIF-Southern Section. As a 215-pound competitor, he’s so much more. The senior now looks to prove it as he takes another step toward a CIF State title when he competes at this weekend’s CIF-Southern Section Southern Division Championships, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Brea Olinda High School. (To continue, click thread)
“He has the heart of a lion,” Northview assistant coach Bobby Bellamy said. “If you saw him wrestle (as a heavyweight) at CIF and Masters (last season), it was gut check. Every match was gut check, and he came out on top.
“But this year, he actually became a wrestler. He understands the sport now, and because of it, we’ve seen tremendous growth and maturity.”
It’s translated into a stout season for Auxier, who comes into this weekend ranked No. 3 at 215 in the latest state rankings. He’s scored two tournament titles, with three runner-up finishes, including a solid second at the prestigious Five Counties Invitational in January. His only loss that weekend was to top-ranked Tank Knowles of Calvary Chapel/Santa Ana.
The difference for Auxier has been his drop from heavyweight to 215 – a transformation that might be tough for most, but not for the Northview senior.
“It was really an easy transition,” Auxier said. “I was never at the weight of a heavyweight. I’ve always been about 213, so weight loss was never an issue.
“The guys at heavyweight were heavier than me, but I just got through it. I feel I can do so much better at 215. It was a good choice.”
For his coaches, though, it was a tough one. And it goes back to the adage “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unless, of course, you can make it better.
“That’s been one of the things we’ve juggled all year,” Bellamy said. “We wanted to assess where we believed he would have the most success at the end of the season, but after the Nogales tournament (in which he finished second) we told him, `Try Five Counties out. That’s one of the toughest tournaments in the country, and if you do well there, then you should stay (at 215).’
“Well, he was in the finals, so that pretty much sealed the deal.”
Auxier and Bellamy credit most of the success, which also includes taking first at the Montclair tournament in late January and at the Valle Vista League finals two weeks ago, to a rededication to his offseason program.
Part of his refocus was because Auxier wanted to honor former Northview wrestler Jesse Cruz, who died in September. He wants to give his friend and mentor a state title, an accomplishment he knew would not be handed to him, so he chased perfection with work and dedication, and has found excellence along the way.
“With Jesse passing away, I dedicated my season to him, and want to be state champion,” Auxier said. “At first, I was kind of sad (when Cruz died) – I felt like I was missing something – but when we all got together and met as a team, as a family, it made me feel that much better, getting everyone’s support. It showed how, not just as a team, but as a group of friends and family, blood-related or not, we all can be one.”
Now the focus is on this weekend’s CIF-SS Southern Division finals, for Auxier and his teammates. He comes into the two-day tournament as the favorite, but Auxier understands that won’t matter when he steps onto the mat Friday.
“Rankings? I don’t stress about them,” Auxier said. “If I thought about it, I would feel I would have to live up to it, get big-headed and overconfident. I just go out there thinking I have something to prove, so I can stay hungry.
“That’s what I want to do: stay hungry, compete and win. I want to do it all for Jesse and get him another CIF championship.”