Senior Franklin Gomez Prepares for Last Home Meet as a Spartan
Feb. 18, 2010
By Brittany McCormick, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
EAST LANSING, Mich. - When senior wrestler Franklin Gomez steps out onto the mat on Sunday at Jenison Field House, it will not only be his last home match in East Lansing, but one of his last as a Spartan. The two-time Big Ten Champion and 2009 NCAA Champion at 133 pounds will graduate this year and leave behind a legacy that will be hard to match.
"When you have someone really special in your program - and he's been special since the first time I've met him - it's hard to see him go," said head coach Tom Minkel.
Gomez has made quite an impact on both the record books and wrestling program during his time here at Michigan State. Interestingly enough, while growing up in Puerto Rico, he had no idea that wrestling was a real sport. After moving to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic when he was five years old, he had witnessed some friends wrestling, which sparked his interest.
"My friends tried to explain wrestling to me but I still did the fake one, like how I saw them do it on TV," said Gomez, who is ranked fourth in the nation by InterMat and enters Sunday's dual with a 19-1 record this season. "I was wrestling one of my bigger friends and it was really hard, I remember. He told me there's a club here and you can come watch. I just went with him and watched and then I started."
He quickly caught on to the sport and through his coach in Puerto Rico, learned how to wrestle freestyle. His coach provided him with the knowledge and techniques of everything he needed to know about wrestling before he moved to the United States seven years ago. Besides adjusting to the culture differences of America, Gomez also had to adapt to folkstyle wrestling, the format used at the college level.
"I grew up wrestling freestyle which is kind of similar but not the same," Gomez said. "I have been wrestling folkstyle for no longer than five years. It took me like a year to get used to but it wasn't bad."
Although the transition to a different style of wrestling was challenging, Gomez got the chance to experience the intense wrestling culture that is unique to the United States.
"Back home in Puerto Rico, wrestling is not that big," he said. "You barely see any news about wrestling. Wrestling is like nothing but over here wrestling is more important to people and to the community. So when I see all the people that come to our duels I'm like, `Wow, this is cool.' They really care about it."
In addition to learning a different style of wrestling, Gomez also had to overcome the language barrier. Even though he feels like he is still learning English, this has not stopped him from pursuing his academic goals. After he graduates with a degree in human resources, Gomez plans on working toward his master's degree in business administration. He also has his sights set on wrestling at the highest level possible.
"I'm trying to pursue the Olympics and world championships," said Gomez. "On top of that I want to do my master's. I am going to try and do my master's slowly at whatever school I might find. Meanwhile with wrestling, I'll focus more on the Olympics and worlds and that type of style wrestling, freestyle."
As his incredible college career is winding down to a close, Gomez feels like he still has some unfinished business to attend to.
"Even now with my record, I lost one and I'm not even in the top three. Things like that motivate me to keep wrestling. They think that I'm not top three, that's what they think," Gomez said. "I ask my mom what she thinks and she thinks I'm number one. I also think I'm number one no matter what people say."
It's hard not to think of Gomez as one of the best athletes in his sport. After winning the Big Ten title as a sophomore and placing third at the NCAA Championships, he repeated his Big Ten title as a junior and also claimed the biggest prize in the sport - the national title. Gomez won the 25th national title in program history with a thrilling 5-4 victory over Ohio State's Reece Humphrey at the Scottsdale Center in St. Louis.
"Franklin is a remarkable athlete in terms of the fact that he is exceptionally talented but also very much a student of the sport," said Minkel. "He's at the very top of the list of great athletes we have had here and certainly in the last 20 years, he is number one."
While he will be sad to leave his friends and the program at Michigan State, Gomez said he is ready to move on to work toward his dream of wrestling in the Olympics.
Gomez has set numerous goals for himself both on the wrestling mat and off once he leaves college. He will try and finish off his final season as strongly as he can and continue to make lasting impressions with every obstacle he faces.
"I have always wanted to make a difference," said Gomez. "I don't want to be just a wrestler. I want people to see something beyond wrestling with me. I don't want to just be number one in wrestling, but number one in the classroom, being a good citizen and helping the community."
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