Joe Gonzalez is an extremely athletic guy. He thrives on competition and likes to push himself to see what he can accomplish. And his senior season featured a whole lot of accomplishment.
I have lost count of how many, many times Joe's hand was raised in victory by a referee over his past two seasons as a varsity at Lyons Township High School, 100 S. Brainard Ave. But I can easily count the number of times I saw him smile at the same moment: once.
Even with a spectacular win-loss record, Joe just wasn't smiling. I don't know what was going through his head, but I imagine he was simply focused on his goals.
In Champaign, when he that sent him to the State finals, Joe was finally beaming. His smile was wide enough to cover every one of his 40 senior season wins.
When he started freshman year as a way to stay in shape for football during the off-season, could he have dreamed of wrestling in the State finals? Joe's mom, Stacey, feels that wrestling has been great for so many reasons. "It's a smaller group of guys and fans so it feels like a family ... The guys really clicked this year and formed strong bonds together. They supported each other win or lose."
She also can't say enough about the coaching staff. "Joe is lucky to have worked with them ... What wonderful men! They have each boy's best interest at heart ... If someone is sick or hurt, there is no pressure to hurry up and get back to competition."
Stacey feels that wrestling has taught her son some important lessons about life: "There are ups and downs in life and you don't always win. It's important to know how to pick yourself up and keep striving."
All that and a spot on the medal stand at State? It doesn't get any better!