SIOUX CITY | Steven Garcia is enjoying one of the best wrestling careers in Morningside history and he might just owe it to Facebook.
The former Sergeant Bluff-Luton standout was doing a little late-night surfing when a message popped up on his screen.
“It is kind of funny the way me and (former SB-L and current University of Nebraska wrestler Colton McCrystal) started wrestling was I was about to be a freshman and we were on Facebook,” Garcia said. “It was 2 or 3 in the morning and he messaged me ‘hey do you want to wrestle tomorrow?’
“I don’t know if I wouldn’t have been up at 3 in the morning and he wouldn’t have been up at 3 in the morning maybe my life would be a lot different.”
The two became consistent workout partners who helped push each other to bigger and better things. That has continued for Garcia at Morningside.
The 149-pounder, who didn’t start wrestling until sixth grade, is a three-time national qualifier having reached All-American status – top eight in the nation – each of the past two seasons while amassing an 84-31 career record. Garcia is well on his way to a fourth trip to nationals in March and could become just the third Mustang to earn at least three All-American honors.
“I bet there are some schools that are going to be glad once I am gone,” said the sixth-ranked wrestler at 149. “They probably think I have been here forever just because … I have been in the lineup for four years. They probably think I am old.”
The success he has had and the way he has gone about it has made him a face of the Morningside wrestling program the past four seasons. It is not something that inflates the ego of a grounded athlete, but it is a source of pride for one that has enjoyed the opportunity to wrestle, and wrestle well, in front of family and friends.
“I signed up to wrestle and I signed up to compete for Morningside and that is what I am going to do,” he said. “I am going to give it my all. I don’t know how many hours I have spent the past four years either lifting, working out, going on runs, so why wouldn’t I want to represent the school the best I can.
“I want everyone on my team to improve and have success and, yes, I am going to have my individual success at the same time.”
“It is hard to come to terms that he is going to be gone next year,” Morningside Coach Jake Stevenson said.
His drive comes from his mom, Maria, who came to the United States from Columbia.
“My mom wanted me to be involved in things and there are a lot of people that have helped me out through the years going to camps or doing things through the church,” Garcia said. “My mom has shown me what it is to be a hard worker.”
The 22-year-old burst on the scene as a true freshman going 27-13 and missing All-American honors by a match.
“I lost in the heartbreak round so I was one match away from All-American,” Garcia said. “I actually lost in a triple-overtime match that came down to riding time and the kid had a second or two more than me.”
Perhaps that loss helped crystallize what the rest of his career would need to include if he was going to reach the podium. Points and big moves are exciting but at national tournaments the ability to grind often supersedes all else.
“I have figured out how to win a lot of those closer matches and I have always wrestled to the seven-minute mark,” said Garcia, who uses a mindset to push himself. “I always think I am the hardest working guy in the room whether it is true or not. If we are running three miles I might not be the best three-mile runner, but I think I am the hardest working guy running the three miles.”
Garcia responded from his freshman disappointment by going 27-7 and finishing fourth in the nation as a sophomore, and backed that up with a sixth-place showing last year despite missing more than half the season with injury. He suffered a sprained lateral collateral ligament and partially tore his posterior cruciate ligament early in the season but battled back to go 15-8 before reaching the podium again at nationals.
“I had a goal to All-American again and it was getting scarier once duals started because I thought I was going to be back by then,” he said. “When you look at the rehab and the time frame I would definitely say it was a success getting back on the podium.”
“Even when he is wrestling half a season he has put the time in over the entire year,” Stevenson said. “If you don’t put a lot in to it, it is easier to go 90 percent in that last 30 seconds. When you invest as much as he does he is going 100 percent.”
Garcia will leave Morningside in the top 10 in career wins in the program.
“I just came and I did what I did at Sergeant Bluff,” he said. “I have always lived the same lifestyle and have always been very committed to my coaching staff and believing what they put out for practice and the offseason.
“I would say I was more on the side that I wouldn’t be so successful right off the bat but at the same time I knew I was going to come in and work hard and do what I have always done throughout high school and I just translated to college.”
Few would argue with that.