Tyler Gonzales has been wanting to run his own wrestling program, and he has landed that job in Junction City.
“I’ve been interested in having my own program since maybe mid-season this year,” Gonzales said. “I started looking at jobs through some online sources, but people in Kansas are constantly reaching out to me and letting me know, ‘Hey this job’s open at this school.’ Through various sources, people let me know. What intrigued me about Junction City were multiple things. I know the area; I’m familiar with it growing up in Topeka. I think the area there in the Flint Hills region is a really pretty area is far as Kansas goes. I’m aware of Junction City’s Youth Wrestling Club. I heard they were getting a new high school and transitioning out of the old one, so those components all helped.”
Gonzales first stepped onto a mat when he was 4 years old, and grew up in a wrestling family. His father, Bob, was the coach at Shawnee Heights High School for 20-plus years, so Tyler was around the wrestlers a ton. Tyler then got the opportunity to compete under his father, where he won a Class 5A State Championship in 2004.
Following high school, Gonzales accepted a wrestling scholarship at Fort Hays State University. Gonzales became a three-time national qualifier there, along with being named a two-time Academic All-American. He graduated with degrees in Education and Psychology.
Gonzales has made quite a few stops since graduating from college, including assistant coaching positions at schools such as Colby Community College and Shorter University in Georgia. He also worked within the USA Wrestling and U.S. Olympic Committee offices in Colorado Springs. Most recently, Gonzales was a teacher and coach at Discovery Canyon Campus High School in Colorado Springs, where he then decided to pursue a head coaching position. Gonzales feels that all of those experiences have put him in a position to be the best coach he can be.
“I think one of my biggest strengths is being able to build relationships,” Gonzales said. “I think a lot of coaches build relationships with their kids and, in doing so, I think I am able to get the most out of kids. On top of having good relationships with kids and getting the most out of them, I think I bring some very unique backgrounds. Having some involvement in the international style and seeing what that looks like, getting to know some of our Olympic athletes and high-level wrestlers and seeing what their upcoming was like. You don’t necessarily have to wrestle from the time you’re 5 years old, or you don’t necessarily have to go all over the entire country. Really, it’s about having a gratitude for the sport, appreciating and getting better everyday and being able to put the work in when maybe nobody else is. Some of those things I really buy into, things that I think are very important.”
After Tyler graduated from high school, his father, Bob, took the head coaching position right up the road from Junction City at Manhattan High School, where he’s been for the past 14 years. The trash talk hasn’t begun yet between the two, but Tyler thinks it’s just a matter of time.
“The 2005-06 season was his first year at Manhattan High School,” Gonzales said. “Since then, they have had some success. We haven’t had too much trash talk yet, but I’m sure that will happen occasionally here and there. We are probably looking at trying to set up a duel with Manhattan. Since our towns are so close and our towns play each other in everything else, I think it’s important for us to continue that rivalry. But, I think the unique thing that my father and I will be able to bring to that rivalry and that duel is for people to see how two towns can be rivals, but still show a lot of love towards each other, and a lot of support and collaboration.”
Gonzales comes to Junction City with a winning background, and hopes that rubs off on his wrestlers. But, he is hoping they find success off the mats just as much as he hopes they do on it.
“At the end of the day, if my kids never win a state title, that’s fine,” Gonzales said. “What’s most important to me with a finished product is that when the kids graduate through our program, and through Junction City High School, they are able to become good citizens to the community. If they grow up to be a good husband or a good wife, or if they grow up to be a good father or a good mother to their family.”