by Cerwin D Haynes
East Los Angeles College wrestler Emmanuel Zepeda has come a long way: a native of El Salvador, he has trekked his way through high school and college without the immediate support of any family locally. However, having remained committed to his sport and academics has paid off as he has formally accepted a scholarship offer to join the Bulldogs of Concordia University for the new school year.
Zepeda - wrestling in the 165lb weight class - has had great success in his two seasons at ELAC, compiling an individual record of 54-12. This past season, he had a several strong finishes in big-time tournaments: he placed second at The Brawl at ELAC in November, second at the South Regionals in Santa Ana, and fifth at the State Championships in Fresno. His performances in the Regionals and State anchored the Huskies' team to fourth and tenth-best finishes respectively.
"Emmanuel is a very deserving young man," says longtime head coach Ralph Valle. "He has no family here, has been homeless; he works very hard to accomplish his goals." Indeed, Zepeda has had to take on high school and college without any family to live with. "It was a very difficult journey because I haven't [been] with family support [along] my academic life," says Zepeda.
It hasn't stopped him from accepting and overcoming challenges: Before arriving in Monterey Park, he was a two-time LA City champion at Freemont High - a school he says isn't as well-known for its wrestling at others. "This was important for me because many people never thought I would end up winning many matches," the sophomore reminisces. "Even my coach just saw like a new kid that would just wrestle for a bit and then quit. But I proved to myself and everyone in my CIF section that I could beat the best school[s] in the area and go back to back to State Championships."
Zepeda chose to attend East LA because, "...ELAC is the community college of the 9 in Los Ángeles that has wrestling." He also recognized that Coach Valle and his assistant Coach Soto "...had been working with high school and colleges for a long time." The Freemont product has greatly benefitted from the tutelage of his ELAC coaches. "They pushed me and loved me as a son in wrestling like I do to them like a father of wrestling," says Zepeda. "This made then a perfect team for me since they both love working with hard-working wrestlers."
In wrestling for Concordia, the 157lb Zepeda will join a program that will look to defend their Great Plains Athletic Conference championship title when the 2020-21 season kicks off. "I decided to go to Concordia because they have some California wrestlers who are very competitive and they are the #1 team of their conference," Zepeda says of his new team. "I always wanted to be a conference champ."
Along with his impressive record during his time at ELAC, the onboarding Bulldog will also take fond Huskies' memories with him to Nebraska. "One of my best memories in wrestling is when I wrestled at the ELAC Brawl both years and [had] much fun because we had many competitive teams that came and show what they had," he reminisces. "And my second memory was when we headed to the 2019 State Championship without being rank[ed] and took a fascinating fifth place which accomplished my dream of placing in California State Championship."
Coach Valle is happy to have coached the young Salvadoran. "I am very proud to have assisted him toward his goals," he praised.
Zepeda, in turn, deeply appreciates his time with Coach. "Valle had a long way in wrestling," he acknowledged. "I respect that, [and] I hope I can be like him - coaching in the future."
The ELAC community wishes Mr. Zepeda the best as he continues to pursue his passion and education at Concordia. He leaves for Nebraska tomorrow night.
- Zepeda joins the Corcordia Bulldogs' roster as a member of the 165lb weight class.
- As he alluded to above, the Bulldogs have many athletes from California. In fact, he will be the ninth Californian on their team.
- Concordia is a Lutheran, private university in Seward, NE - about 30-minutes west of the state capital of Lincoln. An NAIA member school, it competes in the aforementioned Great Plains Athletic Conference.