Jesse Mendez has a simple goal for his high school wrestling career.
“Pin everybody,” the Crown Point freshman said.
Normally, that kind of talk from an incoming ninth-grader would be bulletin board material. But Mendez enters high school with a resume that puts a target on his back, anyway.
The Bulldogs 126-pounder is a three-time middle school state champion, a five-time national champion and was a gold medalist at the 2016 Pan American Championships in Colombia. And that’s just the small percentage of the local, state, national and international honors Mendez has earned since he began grappling at age 7.
“(Mendez puts on) constant pressure. He’s constantly looking to score. He’s always looking for his next takedown,” C.P. coach Branden Lorek said. “He’s a student of the sport. He’s always asking questions or watching film.”
Mendez knew he’d found his calling in his first-ever tournament at Calumet when he was a youngster.
“I was in the finals. I had a pretty close match but I ended up winning,” he said. “That’s when I knew I loved wrestling.”
He doesn’t remember his opponent or the name of the tournament, just that he realized he was good.
“I’m always trying to be the hardest worker in the room, because I want to be the best,” Mendez said. “I don’t like losing. Anything I do, I just want to win.”
Mendez’s history isn’t a secret. Everyone in the area knows what Crown Point has at 126 pounds. But that doesn’t mean he gets special treatment, Lorek said.
“We just kind of set up our program the way it is,” Lorek said. “Some kids are of the mindset that, ‘I’m really good. This is who I am.’ Not once did Jesse come in like that. He came in, lifted weights with the team and kind of assimilated into our program. He just added to the intensity of what we have.”
That drive has already helped with other Crown Point wrestlers, Lorek said. Mendez’s work ethic rubs off and he makes his teammates better. He’s the first one to partner up to lift weights or get in some extra training.
“They know that Jesse’s a good wrestler. He’s proven himself,” Lorek said. “We’re a young team with no returning state qualifiers. They’re all hungry, so it’s going to be a great year for us. They’re all going to take that journey together.”
Mendez has big goals for the four-year journey he’ll spend in the Crown Point wrestling room.
“I want to be undefeated throughout high school and be No. 1 in the nation by next year,” he said.