In a small town like Turlock, that rarely garners national attention and where time moves at a steady pace, people are quick to claim any source of pride they can find. Recently, the ascension of Tom Brandstater, Colin Kaepernick and Tom Mendonca to the professional level of their respective sports has become the main source of pride for many Turlockers.
Though some may not know it, there is another hometown athlete who has recently taken on the title of pro and who may soon be another source of pride for the people of this town. An athlete who hopes to climb the ladder of Mixed Martial Art’s tough welterweight division: Lethal Lewis Gonzalez.
“He’s as good as anybody, if not better,” trainer Gene Fields said. “He’s definitely got the quality and the potential to go above and beyond.”
Gonzalez will tackle his next step today, in his third professional fight, when he faces Justin Baesman at the Gold Country Casino in Oreville.
Born and raised in Turlock, Gonzalez grew up in a wrestling family. Along with his two older brothers, he followed in his father’s wrestling tradition. At the age of six Gonzalez began wrestling for the Turlock Youth Program; from the start it was apparent that Gonzales was talented and had a bright future in the sport.
“I knew him and all his older brothers were going to be good,” Turlock High athletic director Anthony Belew said. “He fed off what his brothers were doing and took it to a different level.”
Gonzales was primed to help the Turlock High School wrestling program continue its winning ways once he reached high school.
As a Bulldog, Gonzales wrestled at the varsity level and qualified for state each school year, placing 4th in state his sophomore year. In his final two years of high school Gonzalez accomplished a feat no other Bulldog had ever achieved, becoming the first wrestler from Turlock to win back to back state championships.
“You have to put Lewis up there at the top,” Belew said. “He’s one of the best wrestlers to come out of Turlock.”
Now, six years removed from his second state championship, Gonzalez has embarked on a new mission: A mission to make a name for himself in the world of MMA. This dream requires hard work, dedication and more than championship wrestling skills.
“I’ve been working on my stand up a lot, training at the Delhi boxing gym has made me better all around,” Gonzalez said.
So far, the training has paid off, Gonzalez is 3-0 as an amateur (two TKO’s and one forfeiture) and 2-0 as a professional (one submission and one TKO), with all wins coming in the first round.
Gonzalez attributes his success to his background, training regime and the support he receives from his family, friends and trainers.
“My background with Turlock wrestling has helped me a lot,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think I’d be where I’m at today if it weren’t for the wrestling.”
This fight will be different from Gonzalez’ previous fights, as it is his first with an MMA league, King of the Cage, and his first time fighting three- five minute rounds. Because of the extended time limit Gonzalez and his team, Team Voodoo, have been pushing themselves harder than ever.
“He’s progressed phenomenally, he adapts very well,” Fields said. “I think he’ll do well, his head is in the game.”
“This guy is 6-1 and has fought for a belt, but he’s mostly a stand up guy,” Gonzalez said of his opponent. “If I take him down I should be good.”
The event, Cage Quest, will begin at 5 p.m. Fans who will not be able to make the trip will still be able to watch the fight; it will air on Comcast California this week.
To contact Frankie Tovar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.