For the majority of his life, Iowa State’s Austin Gomez has been a wrestler, and a great one at that.
He’s a three-time Illinois High School State Champion, two-time Fargo national champion in both Greco and Freestyle, two-time Pan American Champion, 2011 Cadet World Team member, two-time Junior Freestyle Champion and 2018 Junior World Team qualifier. He also finished third in the 2019 Big 12 Championships at 133 pounds and qualified for the 2019 NCAA tournament.
During his youth and collegiate career, he has had multiple concussions, which led him to announce his retirement from the sport on Dec. 28.
But now, he has taken his passion for wrestling in a new direction — coaching — starting with some of his former teammates at Iowa State.
“I plan on getting into the coaching scene, whether that be on the college level, high school kids level, I plan to stick around, I plan to teach them things that worked for me,” Gomez said. “I want to show them that I can give back to the sport, give back to the kids that look up to me, give back to the sport that has given so much to me and gave me an education.”
Since his retirement announcement, Gomez has already started to mentor some of the lightweight wrestlers for the Cyclones. One of these wrestlers is freshman Zach Redding, who has earned a 6-2 record this season at 133 pounds for Iowa State.
In practices before the wrestling season began, Redding said he and Gomez were one of each other's drilling partners.
“He’s really kind of took me under his wing,” Redding said. “We were practicing, then his injury came, he had to step away from the sport, and he’s really become one of the guys that kind of mentors me and teaches me about college wrestling and wrestling at this high level.”
Gomez’s coaching of Redding hasn’t been centered around the mat he knows so well, such as learning new techniques, but rather, it's become a focus on scouting his opponents he’s facing that respective week.
Redding said the advice has payed off so far, noting in his first pair of matches in his young Cyclone career, Redding used Gomez's advice of how to handle upperclassmen, or what to watch out for and what to attack.
Gomez’s off-the-mat involvement has been welcomed, as you would expect, from Iowa State wrestling Head Coach Kevin Dresser.
“Austin is in the room every day," Dresser said. "He wants to be a coach and so he's made a difference."
Before Iowa State's duals against the Iowa Central Tritons, Lindenwood Lions and the then-fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys on Jan. 30, Dresser said Gomez took notes and watched extra video to help prepare Iowa State for the matchups.
“He's kind of like an extra assistant coach right now, so it's been great,” Dresser said.
Strong foundation to family
Gomez, a Carol Stream, Illinois, native, has previously said his father, Hector Gomez, has always influenced him in wrestling and life.
This past summer was a difficult one for a lot of people because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gomez family felt the difficulty and challenges, with Hector contracting and being hospitalized with COVID-19 during the summer.
“For my family and I, this summer was hard with my father not being there for two-and-a-half months," Gomez said. "He could have passed away, but luckily he didn't.”
Hector Gomez has since recovered from COVID-19.
“2020 wasn't very nice to my family and me, but we're making the best of what we got right now," Gomez said.
Throughout dealing with the lingering concussions and retiring from the sport, Gomez's family has been supportive of him through it all.
“You know, they're guiding me through this because they know how much wrestling meant to me, and now we're just slipping forward to the future and coming up with ideas of how I can stay involved with the sport," Gomez said.
Austin is not the only wrestler in his family. Austin’s sister Alexis, a freshman at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, is the top-ranked women's wrestler at 155 pounds in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Gabriella Gomez, who is also learning the sport of wrestling from Hector Gomez, according to Austin Gomez.
Cyclones supporting Cyclones
Austin Gomez’s involvement in the sport of wrestling doesn’t appear to be up in the air, saying he can't give up on the sport that easily.
After the announcement of his retirement from the sport back in December, Gomez received many well-wishes and responses from the Iowa State community. He summed up the response he received from the Iowa State community in one word: special.
“It's definitely something special, you know, I didn't realize how many people enjoyed watching me wrestle when I was out there, how many people loved me in the community,” Gomez said. “You know, coming into college, I knew wrestling was big here in Ames and in the state of Iowa and the history behind Iowa State wrestling, but once I announced my retirement, I had so many alumni, you know, people all around the rest of the world just give their support for me and understand why I made the decision that I made.”
Following Gomez’s announcement, Dresser said in a press release, “We want nothing but the best for Austin,” and "his health and well-being is first and foremost."
Gomez said he and Dresser have had a good relationship "through the ups and downs" of his wrestling career.
"I feel like I have a really good relationship with Dresser," Gomez said. "He told me he was very supportive (of his decision), he's gonna support me no matter what because he knows how much this is taxing on my body...so he's looking out for my safety and my health."
Transitioning from playing a sport to having to watch it from the sidelines can be hard. Gomez said this is especially true with how competitive in nature the sport gets.
In his career at Iowa State, Gomez finished with a 24-7 record and made it to the Round of 12 in the 2019 NCAA tournament. With his prep and collegiate career record combined, Gomez had a 219-14 record as a wrestler.
“I just want to thank my family for supporting me, the coaches here supporting me, Dresser, [Derek] St. John and [John] Metcalf for welcoming me with open arms through this decision process because I know it was hard on me and I also know it wasn't easy on them,” Gomez said. “I just want to thank Tim [Weissner] and give all the glory to God for giving me such life and realizing that He's a top priority in my life."
Gomez is set to graduate from Iowa State in May with a degree in marketing. In regards to his post-graduation plans, Gomez is unsure of what is next for him.
He does, however, have a dream job in his mind.
“The ultimate dream job is to stay here at Iowa State."