Wong’s dedication pays off on the mat

The December Athlete of the Month found his passion for wrestling through jiu-jitsu.

With a spotlight honing in on the centerstage of the mats, two opponents are circling around amid the hushed whispers of the audience.

Standing 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds, Diamond Bar High School senior wrestling captain Dylan Wong eyes his opponent down and tracks every possible mistake, seizing his opportunity to pin the opposition and secure victory.

“I usually feel anxious but focused,” Wong said. “I usually stay low to the floor, control my opponent’s wrists, defend my legs and apply some pressure on the opponent using my forehead.”

Ever since he started Brazilian jiu-jitsu training in seventh grade, Wong found an enjoyment for grappling sports, which fuse hand-to-hand combat with martial arts. After pondering which sport to participate in, the senior captain chose wrestling due to its similarities to jiu-jitsu.

“I tried out for a wrestling camp in the summertime [before ninth grade] and I liked it a lot, so I decided to pursue it,” Wong said.        

With his brother, sophomore Ryan Wong, also participating in the sport, the two siblings inspire each other to become better at their craft.

“Honestly, he has actually surpassed me in some ways because he made it farther in CIF than I did,” Wong said. “He was so close to advancing at the CIF SS Masters Tournament.”

Since he first joined the sport as a freshman, Wong has become one of the top wrestlers in the Mt. Baldy League, winning league finals as a junior. He also turned in an impressive performance at CIF Southern Section, reaching the quarterfinals last year toward the end of the season.

Outside of school, Wong has also participated in renowned national wrestling competitions. He attended the 2019 Freakshow of Amateur Wrestling in Las Vegas, playing against other top wrestlers from across the country.

“Actually, I did pretty well considering how big the tournament was,” Wong said. “I placed in the top 24 out of 128 wrestlers.”

While he has earned multiple accolades in wrestling, Wong has also faced challenges in the sport. This past summer, the senior broke the ulna and radius of his left arm, so he had surgery and sat out for two to three months.

“This is basically my first month back,” Wong said. “I think that [this injury] definitely hurt my potential growth in wrestling, but it’s in the past and I just need to move on.”

Moreover, the senior captain accredits a majority of his success to his dedication, which pushes him through the mental obstacles that come with wrestling. Despite contrary belief, the sport requires more mental strategizing rather than physical strenghth.

“You definitely have to be dedicated because, at least in wrestling, motivation doesn’t really mean anything if you’re not willing to put the effort and work in,” Wong said. “You have to take the time to get up on all the mornings and go for an extra run, lift some weights or get an extra practice session in.”

Wong also described how some of his losses were harder to swallow due to the higher standards he places on himself. Despite this, the senior said he copes with his defeats with his optimistic viewpoint.

“The hardest thing is just to keep going after you lose to someone you weren’t supposed to lose to,” Wong said. “I think you feel really bothered by it but you can’t dwell on it. You have to work around it and then learn from why you lost.”

The senior expressed pride in his wrestling achievements in high school considering how much he has accomplished in the past four years.  

“It’s basically the hardest thing I’ve ever done just because it’s just so physically and mentally consuming,” Wong said. “It makes me feel a lot more confident about myself while I l ook back on my previous seasons.”

Wong is looking forward to continuing his wrestling career in college, considering Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as one of his options.