Elyria sophomore Enrique Munguia always felt he could compete with the top wrestlers in the nation, but this season he has taken down enough giants to make David jealous.
“He’s not afraid of anybody and he’s not afraid of any position,” Pioneers coach Erik Burnett said. “I’m not surprised in the least bit, and more importantly, he’s not. We see some things in him that when he puts it together he can really be amazing. I’m glad that he realizes that he can go out there and beat top-level guys. He’s top level and he gives top-level effort.”
Munguia opened eyes immediately when he upset Jacob Conrad in their first-round match at the Walsh Jesuit Ironman. Conrad, a senior at Carrollwood (Fla.) High, is a two-time Florida state champion and was a Florida state runner-up as an eighth-grader.
Munguia pinned him early in the second period.
Next up was Brecksville’s Victor Voinovich, who won a Division I state championship as a freshman last season and placed third in the nation at the freestyle nationals in Fargo, N.D. He’s added four other All-American finishes to his resume and was a Beast of the East finalist in 2017.
Munguia beat him 7-4 in sudden victory overtime in the third round at Ironman.
“I didn’t really focus on who I was wrestling,” Munguia said. “I knew who I had, but I also knew I could hang with them. I drilled with Victor before in practice and I knew it was no different.”
Munguia stalled at the Ironman, but came out more aggressively a couple weeks later at the Beast of the East tournament at the University of Delaware. He had matching 9-0 major decision victories over Mount St. Joseph’s Christopher Roybal — a Maryland state placer (fourth) — in the first round and McCallie’s James Whitworth — a Tennessee state champion and two-time national prep placer — in the third round.
Munguia battled his way onto the Beast podium, finishing seventh at 152 pounds in the 119-team field.
The two-week performance caught the attention of Intermat national high school wrestling analyst Josh Lowe, who praised Munguia online and on the Weekly Wrestling Recap radio show on WEOL AM-930.
“He’s set himself up for a good season coming off a 1-2 district performance as a freshman,” Lowe said during the show. “It’ll be interesting to see how he does going forward now that the expectations kind of have shifted, maybe not for him but for other people on him, now that he’s kind of known as opposed to being unknown.”
Lowe and the rest of the wrestling world didn’t have to wait long, as the Pioneers were in action just five days later at the challenging Brecksville Holiday Tournament.
Munguia scored a 21-4 technical fall over Perrysburg freshman Noah Ewen, a junior high state champion and national freestyle All-American that the Elyria wrestler had also defeated in an opening-weekend dual meet. He then won 3-2 over Aurora freshman Dylan Fishback, another junior high state champion, in the consolation quarterfinal; won 6-3 over Louisville’s Jax Leonard, a two-time state placer, in the consolation semifinals; and won 3-2 over Avon (Ind.) senior Nathan Conley, a two-time Indiana state placer and an NHSCA All-American, to place third.
“He’s doing a good job of making his opponents wrestle his style of match, and that’s impressive for a young kid,” Burnett said. “He’s got a unique style of wrestling. The more he cuts out mistakes, the better he’s going to be. But I don’t want him going out and wrestling worrying about making mistakes. He’s done a nice job this year of just going out and letting it fly.”
Munguia didn’t take the usual path to the Elyria wrestling room. He got into wrestling because his father, Carlos, was a Cleveland police officer who worked with Guy Sako, who runs West Shore youth wrestling in Lakewood, a biddy feeder program for St. Edward.
Munguia then trained with Mike Kulczycki at the Wrestling Factory, which is where Burnett got his first look at the young athlete.
“Mike Kulczycki brought him out — we’d get out kids together and work out,” Burnett said. “I just noticed that Enrique just always went hard. During the drills, during any live situational stuff … whatever. He does not take a go off.”
Munguia said his plans to attend St. Edward didn’t work out, so he felt Elyria might be a good landing spot.
“I decided to go to Elyria and it was a better fit and I like all the guys,” he said. “They’ve helped me work harder. They help me move faster, keep up with the faster people.”
Munguia’s freshman season ended in disappointment. He qualified to the district tournament at Mentor, but sprained his ankle in his consolation second-round match against Canal Winchester’s Chance Brown and couldn’t continue.
“The injury was a real bummer, man, but that’s just something you can’t control,” Burnett said. “He was going hard and doing everything he could to win that match and it was unfortunate the way it ended.
“He’s the type of kid that saw his hard work was paying off, even if he didn’t meet his end goal. He saw that he was making progress throughout the process.”
After the ankle healed, Munguia went to work on his offseason plan. He wrestled for Team Ohio in the national duals in Oklahoma and qualified for the freestyle nationals in Fargo for the third straight year.
His resume continues to grow and podium finishes are becoming routine. Munguia is confident he can give any opponent who steps on the mat with him a competitive battle.
“I think I have a good shot at everyone I face. No matter who it is, I feel that I can win,” he said. “I’m pretty happy at what I’ve accomplished so far, but I feel like I still have the ability to accomplish bigger things in the future.”
- Wrestling: Team Ohio, loaded with area talent, likes its chances at upcoming nationals
- Sectional Wrestling: Powers collide -- St. Ed's takes title, Elyria finishes 2nd in marquee matchup
- High school wrestling: Elyria's fourth appearance at dual team state tournament is a short one as Pioneers fall to La Salle in first round
- High school wrestling: Elyria racks up six individual GCC titles on way to fourth straight league championship; Joshua Breeding makes it 4-for-4 in conference tournaments
- H.S. Wrestling: Dual domination -- Elyria headed back to state tourney after pair of big wins
- H.S. Wrestling: Elyria, Midview set for showdown in dual team tournament
- High school wrestling: Amherst's Matt Lee bounces back from loss in big way at Maumee Bay Classic; Elyria brings home team title