Wrestling: Mental toughness keys Escobar's senior resurgence

Rochelle senior Diego Escobar bounced back from a potentially serious knee injury to win 10 matches and earn a starting varsity role for the Hub wrestling team. (Photo by Marcy DeLille)

160-pounder overcomes knee injury, earns varsity role

Diego Escobar nearly saw his senior season with the Rochelle Township High School wrestling program end abruptly when the Hubs battled against the Morris Redskins this past winter.

Escobar had been winning the 160-pound bout, but after twisting his knee awkwardly near the end of the first period, Escobar was forced to withdraw from the match. The senior was out for several weeks, but he was fortunately able to return and finish his senior strong, earning a victory on Senior Night and claiming one win at the IHSA 2A Sycamore Regional. Escobar, who spent three years with the wrestling program, ended his senior season 10-9 overall.

“The RTHS wrestling team taught me about dedication and commitment,” Escobar said. “Wrestling was one of the most challenging things I did throughout my time in high school, but getting through those seasons taught me to never give up, no matter how difficult things may seem. Wrestling taught me about how failure is necessary to win in the long run.”

Escobar competed with the junior varsity team over his freshman and sophomore seasons, taking a one-year break before returning to the program as a senior. Escobar, who also ran for the RTHS cross country and track teams, was with the Hubs when they brought home a fourth-place trophy from the IHSA 2A Dual State Championships during the 2017-18 season.

“My favorite memory was going to state for the dual team championships,” Escobar said. “There were a lot of memories and emotions throughout that weekend that I’ll never forget… What I enjoyed most about wrestling at RTHS was the bonds I developed with my teammates and coaches. It really felt like we were a family while we were together.”

Escobar, who intends to study criminal justice after high school, began wrestling in sixth grade at Rochelle Middle School. Despite being one of the smaller and thinner kids on the team, Escobar continued with the sport, refusing to give up because of his inferior size. As Escobar grew older and stronger, he said his determination improved as well.

“I stuck with wrestling because my coaches didn’t want to give up on me,” Escobar said. “They wanted to see me succeed and so I kept going… My determination and mindset improved a lot at RTHS. My freshman season was a struggle because I wasn’t prepared mentally for the work I needed to do, but when my senior season came around, I gave the team everything I had.”

Escobar plans to attend Kishwaukee College for two years before transferring to finish his bachelor’s degree. He said he aspires to become either a state trooper or a deputy sheriff.

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