LAFAYETTE -- When he was little, Andre Aragon would notice his shoulders popping while he ran. Eventually, he discovered that he was double-jointed in both.
As a prep wrestler at Centaurus High School, Aragon's unique joint structure makes him a unique competitor in a sport that routinely twists, grinds, pulls and jerks joints in angles they're not meant to reach. But what can doom the average wrestler to pain or pin often works in Aragon's advantage.
Both of the Warrior senior's shoulders dislocate during matches and he can pop them back into place. Sometimes, Aragon even does it intentionally to escape a hold or gain position on his opponent.
"It hurts but I can deal with the pain," said Aragon, whose funky joint flexion helped him qualify for the 5A state tournament last season. "After a while I learned how to use it to my advantage."
Wrestling at 113 pounds, Aragon went 1-2 at state last season. On the mat, it is clear Aragon is one of the Warriors' stellar wrestlers. But he didn't start out that way.
Aragon experienced a mix of success and frustration his freshman season. He began to feel left out and grew increasingly distant from the team. Never quite growing comfortable with the team, Aragon decided not to wrestle his sophomore year. But something was missing.
Compelled by his love for the sport, Aragon was called back to the wrestling room. Rededicating himself to the wrestling team, he rejoined and eventually worked his way back into the good graces of his teammates and began to find comfort with the team.
"Once you wrestle, it stays in your blood," Aragon said. "It's always gonna be in you and you're gonna miss it, no matter what. It became like a family for me. Like this year, it's a family again."
With comfort came success. Feeling as though his coaches and teammates are firmly in his corner, Aragon is approaching this season with the intention of standing on the podium when it's all over.
Aragon's status as one of the Warriors' top wrestlers has brought with it the expectation to lead. Head coach Cisco Gonzales said the senior needs to be a guy who, when he steps on the mat, he more often than not steps off the victor.
But, Gonzales said, Aragon also needs to be someone other wrestlers can look to as an example.
"He took a season off and kind of went through some things," Gonzales said. "When he came back last year, it was kind of like him earning back the respect of the squad and that confidence with his peers. He was here and he was committed. We want to do some real positive things this year and we need everybody on board. That's one thing that he's done."
Aragon is an offensive wrestler with a conventional, counterattacking style. He thrives in scramble positions and his unconventional physical traits will make him a dangerous and confusing opponent this winter.
As someone who once left the team, though, the role of wrestling room leader is new to him. Aragon's ability to help guide the Warriors, and to encourage others to do the same, will play a major role in the team's success this season.
"I'm not a loud guy. But when it comes down to it, I can be a leader," Aragon said. "I try to make other people be leaders, as well. It's not all about me, it's about the other guys in the end. We all need to learn from our mistakes and lead by example."
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