By Daniel Dullum
While making his recent visit to Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, Apache Junction wrestler Taylor Vargas learned quickly to dress for the Midwest autumn weather.
“It was pretty cold when I went up there,” Vargas said. “I had to dress up all nice because I was going there to tour the campus, meet the coaches and everything. I wasn’t wearing a coat and it was pretty cold outside! I wasn’t really prepared for it.”
The cooler temps didn’t deter Vargas from pursuing his dream of collegiate wrestling, signing a national letter of intent to join the Chargers program, currently ranked No. 17 in the NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Poll.
“I never wanted to just stop wrestling after high school,” Vargas said. “I started the sport in eighth grade, fell in love with it, and ever since then, I’ve always enjoyed the grind of working hard and being able to go out there, relieve all your stress.”
As a junior, Vargas was 36-11, won the 138-pound title in Section 2 and was 1-2 at the AIA State Division III tournament. He spoke to three colleges before deciding on Briar Cliff.
“Briar Cliff is a really nice university, nice campus, nice town, and I like the wrestling program they have going on there, so I picked them,” Vargas said. “I like their wrestling tradition, the program has around 30 or 40 wrestlers and they have a good bond going there. I really enjoy that and look for that in a team.”
Vargas said Chargers Coach Joe Privitere told him he liked his “dedication to the sport.”
“That, and I don’t quit,” Vargas said. “I kept up with them through the college workouts. I was always asking coach questions, always had everything prepared. He likes everything that I’m doing, he knows I’m a leader, and they feel I’m what they’re looking for in a wrestler.”
Vargas plans to major in sociology and criminology, eventually becoming a forensics or criminal psychological profiler.
“When I was little, I wanted to be a homicide detective, because I was always curious about law enforcement and the human mind,” Vargas said. “My eyesight is really bad, so I couldn’t be one because I wouldn’t be able to handle a gun. So I thought more about the minds.
“Going through high school, I thought a lot about how people do the things they do. I’d think, ‘we should rehabilitate them, or at least try to catch them.’”
Vargas noted that, to him, the mental discipline from wrestling ties in directly with his career path.
“This sport teaches you so much,” Vargas said. “When I go home, I have to cut weight. When I’m at practice, I’m the leader to push my team, so I can’t stop. And that’s why they don’t stop. We’re all together and it’s all about what’s inside your head.
“What’s between your ears is the biggest opponent you’ll ever have in your life.”
For his senior season, Vargas wants to be a state champion, a section champion, and wants to place higher in tournaments.
“I want to get first place, always place in tournaments, always working not to be taken down,” Vargas said. “I haven’t been taken down yet. It goes back to the wrestling room and that mental discipline.
“I want to keep working hard at being the best wrestler I can be, and a better person.”