Lino Estrada just had to get out on the road to recover his wrestling mojo.
The former three-time state champion at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix turned in three straight winning performances to help the Grand Canyon University grapplers to a successful road swing through Texas and New Mexico.
That came after three consecutive losses at home, including an overtime match, that he was able to put in the rear-view mirror.
The road victories put the Antelopes, who are ranked No. 5 in the nation, on the path to a new winning streak. The Lopes had won nine straight duals until getting tripped up by No. 9-ranked Adams State less than two weeks ago, losing 16-25 at home.
Now GCU is on a five-game streak, and Estrada has stepped out of the small pack of local athletes on the GCU roster to begin making a difference. The redshirt sophomore wrestled unattached in the 2009-2010 season and then posted an underwhelming 1-4 record last year.
But this year, the four-time prep region champion is beginning to put together the wins to show why he was selected in the pre-season as No. 3 in the West Region 4 in his weight class. He wrestled last year at 141 pounds, but this year is competing at 133 and seeing the benefits from the change in weight class.
The Lopes carry 31 wrestlers on this year’s roster, and just eight of them came through Arizona high schools, including Estrada. They include two true freshmen who just stepped up to the college level, James Arthur (125 pounds) from McClintock High School in Tempe and Mike Glaberman (157) from Mesa’s Desert Ridge High School.
The others include three redshirt freshmen: Nate Zobott (285/Coconino HS) David Wilber (165/Mingus Union HS), Ryan Miller (157/Corona del Sol HS), and two juniors: Austen Moore (149/Ironwood HS) and Aurel Dan (184/Tolleson HS).
GCU started the season with momentum, as last year closed out with 13 straight dual wins. That earned them a No. 5 national pre-season ranking and a second-place prediction in the region.
Currently, they are 16-4 in dual meets and just one dual victory away from tying last season’s school record of 17 dual-meet wins.
Estrada isn’t ranked, but there are plenty on this year’s squad that are. Six of the GCU wrestlers are ranked in at least one of the national polls.
The Lopes point the bus toward Colorado next, with dual matches against Colorado School of Mines and Chadron State, both conference opponents.
Those two matches, both on Sunday, will give this year’s squad a chance to tie or break the record for dual victories. And, since they’re on the road, Estrada should be right there to help.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)