Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal Staff
San Mateo Daily Journal Wrestler of the Year Christian Diokno won his second straight Peninsula Athletic League championship this season in the 113-pound class.
El Camino wrestling coach Ray Reyes believes Christian Diokno made the right choice in giving up football.
Actually, as Diokno describes it, it was basketball, not football, he was forgoing.
“I think I’m a pretty good basketball player, but I’m probably really not,” Diokno said.
Turns out Diokno found the perfect sport for him: wrestling. And he does it better than most. Wrestling between 113 and 126 pounds this season, Diokno proved to be one of the best in the Peninsula Athletic League, Central Coast Section and the state.
This year he won his second straight PAL championship, finished third in the 113-pound class at CCS and qualified for the state tournament for the first time.
Not that any of it was easy. Not that anything comes easy in the world of wrestling. If there is one common trait among wrestlers it’s that they relish hard work and they look forward to a challenge. Diokno faced — and conquered — both and in the process became the Daily Journal’s Wrestler of the Year.
“At first, in preseason, I was 130. It was kind of weird, so I had to cut (weight) to get to 126. After that, I went to 120. (Getting to) 113 is hard,” Diokno said. “My plan was to go to 120 this year, but at the weight assessment, it said I could go to 113. Also, that way, my other teammate could wrestle at 120.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can’t make 113.’ At the time, I just cut to make 126. How am I going to make 113? It all worked out in the end.”
Despite all the fluctuating weight, it actually might have benefited Diokno in the long run. Wrestling at higher weights forced him to become a better wrestler.
While he may not have been winning tournament titles at other weights, he was getting better for the postseason.
“I think if I stayed at 113 (all season), I probably wouldn’t have improved as much,” Diokno said. “At 126, you’re wrestling different kinds of people. You learn a lot wrestling guys who are heavier and bigger than you. I just knew I could learn more from losing than winning.”
Said Reyes: “He wasn’t winning tournaments, he was finishing top 3. We knew he could beat guys from 108 to 132.”
And that being said, there wasn’t a whole lot of losing Diokno experienced. He finished the season with a record of 25-10. And while he didn’t capture the ultimate goals of CCS and state titles, the fact he battled to qualify for state left Diokno satisfied.
After winning the 113-pound PAL title, he was the No. 4 seed at CCS. He dominated his first two matches — winning by technical fall 18-2 in the first round and posting a 10-3 decision in the second round.
He came up short in the semifinals, however, dropping a 5-3 decision. Despite seeing his chance to win a CCS title go by the board, Diokno’s goal of making the state tournament was still within reach with two more wins.
“(Falling short of the finals) could either [make you hungrier] or you can be OK with it,” Reyes said. “He was down by the fact he didn’t make the finals, but it never stopped him from knowing state was his ultimate goal. He didn’t feel sorry for himself.”
Said Diokno: “After I lost in the semis, I was kind of disappointed because I knew I could beat that guy. But last year, I didn’t even place in CCS. You gotta build yourself back up (for the consolation round) in about half an hour.”
Which is exactly what he did. He crushed his opponent 13-6 in a consolation match to advance to the third-place match — where the winner would receive the weight class’ third and final spot in the state tournament.
Diokno prevailed, 7-2.
Only a junior, Diokno still has one more year to accomplish all his individual goals. But he also realizes there is a team aspect to wrestling and he wants to help keep El Camino on the high school wrestling map.
“He’s very good on seeing the big picture,” Reyes said. “I think he believes he’s carrying the light for us (as a team). He’s fired up and ready to roll. Sometimes it’s hard for little guys to take on that (leadership) role. But he definitely a lead-by-example guy.”
“I always try to do my best in every single match and just keep getting better,” Diokno said. “My goal this year was to get to state, to be the best I can to win state. Just improving every day and getting my team better.”