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SUNDAY

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5:40 p.m. Sunday FOX

1C

Sharing victory
Fans hold up a sign for Liberal High School senior Daniel Rivera who was able to experience a wrestling match,
and the tatse of victory with the support of Garden City wrestler David San Juan. L&T photo/Earl Watt

4&
th

GOAL

Winning redefined: Daniels special moment


By EARL WATT
Leader &Times

EARL WATT

Respect for
the rival
Buffaloes
Sometimes in the push to be the
best, we forget what being the best
really means until something
special happens that reminds us
that there is more to life.
The sacrifice David San Juan
made was one of those moments.
Its one thing to sacrifice for a
friend or your team, even your
community, but to sacrifice for
someone you dont even know in a
tival community takes a special
person.
I am a Redskin and have been
since birth. Being that Garden City
is only 60 miles away and is a
conference rival, I have rooted
against them at every turn.
Traveling to Garden City for a
football game a few years ago, I
still remember the brown UPS
trucks heading back to Garden
City with a cardboard Go Buffs
sign in front of me, knowing that
Liberal fans would be traveling up
to the game.
Liberal and Garden City
compete all the time, in sports, in
economics, education, and
otherwise. Through the
competition, we make each other
better by developing a drive to be
the best.
We share some common traits as
well as communities on the high
plains enjoying the agricultural
lifestyle.
Still, I enjoy a Liberal victory
over Garden City, and in psorts we
consider them an enemy in some
ways.
But David showed us in a greater
sense that we are all on the same
team.
What he did by allowing Liberal
special needs student Daniel Rivera
to experience victory will never be
forgotten, and as a community, we
say thanks. Youre not so bad after
all.

ABOVE: Liberal
wrestler Daniel Rivera
gets behind Garden
Citys David San Juan
for two points Thursday
in a special exhibition
match.
RIGHT: Garden Citys
David San Juan makes
Liberals Daniel Rivera
work during a special
exhibition match that
Rivera was able to win,
4-0.
BELOW: Liberals
Daniel Rivera shakes
hands with Garden City
head coach Carlos
Prieto after a special
exhibition match. L&T
photos/Earl Watt

For three minutes in The Big House Thursday, the meaning of the word winning
was transformed when a special member of Liberals wrestling team, Daniel Rivera,
was able to compete.
In many ways, Daniel is like his classmates and teammates. He teases his weight
room teachers. And he tries just as hard as anyone else on the Redskin wrestling
team.
As a special needs student, Daniel also has challenges his classmates may never
understand, but those challenges were not on display Thursday when his name was
called to the wrestling mat.
He is a good kid, Liberal wrestling coach Kyle Molina said. He had a special
meeting with Daniels mother, and under special circumstances he was able to join
the team.
I jumped on board, Molina said. I want to build a program that affects kids in
a positive manner. He comes to practice three times a week, and he works hard
with the other kids. He drills with them. The kids are great with him. They help
him stretch and they kid around with him.
Thats what teammates do, and wearing his Redskins singlet representing his
school, he headed onto the mat to face Garden Citys David San Juan who agreed
to participate in the special match after Molina contacted Garden City head coach
Carlos Prieto.
David is in his first year wrestling for the Buffaloes, and when he joined the
team, Prieto was concerned about Davids long hair.
I told him, You may have to cut that, Prieto said. He said he wont because
he is going to grow it out for two years and donate it to Locks of Love. He was the
perfect kid when (Molina) called and asked about a special match.
As the match started, Daniel and David tied up, and Daniel was able to get
behind David for two points. While David may have offered token resistance, there
wasnt a person in The Big House that didnt realize the sacrifice David was
making.
Daniel kept control of David, moving from side to side, and when David would
rise to his knees or his feet, Daniel would bring him back down.
I know being a 15-16 year old kid, you are out there wanting to compete,
Molina said. The last thing you want to do is work with someone you dont even
know. He didnt know Daniel at all.
Daniels special education instructor had been working closely with the wrestling
team while Daniel prepared, making sure he was ready to go so that the practice
schedule was maintained..
He doesnt take time away from practice, Molina said. He is one of the boys.
The whole special education department was there cheering for him. I was just
proud to be a part of the whole situation.
But when Molina made the call to the Garden City coach, he didnt know how
the request would be received. Garden City is currently ranked No. 1 in Class 6A,
and with their attention on competing for a state title, a special match might have
been an unnecessary distraction.
But Prieto wanted to help. He, too, has worked with special members of his
team before.
We had such a kid the last four years, Prieto said. He graduated last year. We
made him feel special, we took him on varsity meets. Last year as a senior, I
presented him with a letter jacket. Those moments are priceless teaching
moments for not only him but for everyone else involved. You put egos aside and
life is much bigger than yourself sometimes. If you can make it special for
someone, thats what it is about.
Daniel and David entered the second and final period of their exhibition, and
Daniel again scored a takedown and two more points.
Breathing hard, he continued to work, and David continued to play defense.
When the horn sounded, both wrestlers returned to the center, and Daniels
hand was raised in the air.
But victory was had by all.
And Molina wanted David to know how important his sacrifice was.
I told him I appreciated what he did, Molina said. As a man, doing
something for someone else who cant repay you, it is the greatest thing you can
do. That shows he will be a successful human being. David and Coach Prieto
deserve so much respect. I appreciate what they gave. They didnt get much out of
it, but they gave so Daniel could have a great memory.
And the meaning of the moment was not lost on Prieto. He shared how the
emotion of the moment affected him with his wife.
I consider myself a tough guy, Prieto said. But thinking of what that moment
meant for that young man and his family, it got to me.
Daniel shook hands with Prieto and the Garden City coaching staff, and he
returned to his sideline while both benches cheered, and the fans in the stands rose
to their feet. Daniel came back a winner.
And David left a winner, too.

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