At 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds, Turner Garcia cuts a unique figure on a wrestling mat.
He’s a jumble of arms and legs, as opposed to the stocky, muscle-bound frames one often encounters. Teammates liken him to a praying mantis, a slender predatory insect.
The Sterling senior is comfortable with that.
“It’s hard for guys to simulate what my body type is, and hard for them to get used to,” Garcia said. “With my length, that works out to my favor.”
In 37 bouts this year, Garcia has come out on top 29 times. The latest was a 5-4 decision against Dixon’s Sebastian Quintana in the finals of the Class 2A Rock Falls Regional this past Saturday. They have now split six bouts the past two seasons.
“It’s fun facing him, because I get to see where I’m at,” Garcia said. “He’s one of the best in the state, and he’s only a sophomore – I wish I would have been that good as a sophomore. Last year, I also beat him in the regional, but then he beat me at the sectional to get to state. Beating him at regional this year, yes, that’s a confidence booster, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to state.”
The next step toward state comes Friday and Saturday at the Sycamore Sectional. It will be Garcia’s third try. He went 0-2 as a sophomore, and admitted he likely was in over his head at the time.
Last year, however, Garcia simply didn’t get it done, in a home game at the Sterling Sectional. He was one of the favorites at 152 pounds and advanced to the semifinals, only to lose 7-4 to Belvidere North’s Sean Lock.
In the wrestlebacks, he lost 9-3 to Quintana in a bout where the winner punched his ticket to state.
“I almost got too comfortable,” Garcia said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I am in a really good spot. I can do this.’ Making it to sectionals is a tough thing, and you can’t take anybody lightly.”
Coming up short at two consecutive sectionals is something that drives Garcia to not let that happen a third time. He’s determined to earn a state tournament berth.
“I want that on my résumé,” Garcia said. “It’s something I’ve been striving for my entire life. Last year, I was in a similar position, and I didn’t get out. I lost a couple of tough ones, and that kind of stung, but I’ve used that as motivation this year.”
“We thought Turner had a great shot last year,” Sterling coach Jeff Gale said. “Part of it was nerves, being at home, and then the team got on a losing roll, and it was hard to recover from. Turner’s developed some more offense this year, and it’s made him that much more of a formidable foe.”
Win or lose in the coming weeks, Garcia won’t be done with Sterling wrestling. He plans on coming back next season as a volunteer assistant, while he’s a student at Sauk Valley Community College.
Down the road, he wants to become a history teacher and a coach, and working as a volunteer coach at his alma mater will be good experience.
“I just want to be a part of that,” Garcia said. “I want to make a difference in someone’s life.”
FYI: Won 160-pound title at Class 2A Geneseo Regional last week. … Owns a 28-9 record. … 3-time sectional qualifier. … Starting cornerback/outside linebacker for football team, & scored 2 defensive TDs.