ALAMO — From a young age, before he ever dreamed of being a wrestler, PSJA Memorial’s Abel Alvarado belonged on a mat.
Growing up as a kid, Alvarado wanted to be a star athlete on the basketball court but was exposed to wrestling early on thanks to his older brother, Abraham.
Under longtime PSJA Memorial wrestling head coach Joe Clark, the elder Alvarado made multiple deep postseason runs and became one of the Valley’s most dominant and decorated wrestlers.
Clark and the Alvarado brothers’ paths became irreversibly intertwined when Abraham showed up to Clark’s wrestling room for the first time looking for an edge in another sport.
“His older brother, Abraham, as a sophomore, was actually playing for the football team and he was small, so he came to wrestling looking for a home and found it,” Clark said. “His junior year, he made it to regionals. Yet, due to a conflict with grades, couldn’t make the big trip. But his senior year he got it all back because he was one of our state candidates and one of our best wrestlers ever.”
Abel Alvarado watched his older ascend the Class 5A state ranks and admired his dedication to the craft. He remembered watching his brother return from state his senior year and a light bulb went off in his mind.
“He made it to state, and ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to go to state because of my brother,” Alvarado said. “One day I was sitting down with my brother and it just popped it into my head: ‘Basketball is getting nowhere for me. Why not wrestle?’”
Alvarado also benefited from his brother’s success in a more direct way, too. Abraham brought home the moves he learned and practiced on his younger brother, Abel.
The homeschool wrestling sessions taught the younger Alvarado early on and toughened him up so much, and gave his older brother plenty of reason to hype him up to Clark.
“Abel growing up when he was a little kid, Abraham, his older brother, would work with him,” Clark said. “For years, I hear, ‘Coach, wait until my little brother comes. He’s a beast, Coach. He’s going to be a beast.’ Abel is a tiny little guy and he has a big brother, a state qualifier, working with him.”
Alvarado soon followed in his brother’s footsteps and was introduced to mixed martial arts as a young kid, which gave him his first taste of combat sports and the fundamentals to make an easier transition to competitive wrestling.
“I’ve had experience with Jiu Jitsu and other martial arts,” Alvarado said. “My brother started, and I remember at the time he was going for about three months before I started going too. Once I started going, I fell in love with martial arts, the workout and the feeling of beating someone in a combat sport, which is like no other feeling.”
Alvarado decided to start wrestling during his freshman year of high school, but had several obstacles to overcome before he could get to the mat and compete.
He started the year off at PSJA North High School, but quickly transferred to PSJA Memorial because of him and his brother’s long-standing relationship with Clark, the Wolverines’ wrestling coach since the late 1980s.
“My brother wrestled for Coach Clark, so I’ve known Coach Clark since I was a little kid. We’ve had a relationship,” Alvarado said. “It feels good. I feel more comfortable. I feel more comfortable asking questions about things I don’t understand.”
That three-way relationship between the Alvarado brothers and Clark proved to be pivotal that first year. Despite weathering a family tragedy and not being able to compete in varsity matches for a full year, Alvarado found solace in Clark’s wrestling room.
“He’s very resilient,” Clark said. “That relationship between him and his older brother, what can I say? Their dad passed when he was a freshman. (Abel) has always followed Abraham. He’s a fighter,” Clark said. “I love that kid. I told him if he ever needs a home, he always has one with Coach Clark. Guys like that don’t come around too often, but when they do, it’s really a good feeling to have them.”
Since making it his home away from home, Alvarado has thrived in the Wolverines’ wrestling program.
He announced his presence in a big way as a sophomore in the 106-pound weight class by making a deep postseason run, which he credits to the year he spent training and getting pushed around by his older teammates.
“My old teammates used to beat up on me, but I feel like that got me tough,” Alvarado said. I was working with them in the mat room, so it gave me a lot to look forward to.”
Alvarado took his game to another level as a junior, surpassing his brother’s farthest run at state. He tallied a 40-3 season record on his way to claiming third place in the state 5A tournament in the 106-pound division, which was an emotional moment for both wrestler and coach.
“We broke down in tears when he got third last year at the state championship,” Clark said. “He was one of the best wrestlers I’ve ever had and one of the best kids to work with.”
Alvarado moved up a weight class to wrestle at 113 pounds to start his senior season and has notched a 10-1 record so far. He owns the No. 2 ranking in his weight class throughout the state in 5A, according to WrestlingTexas.com, and is coming off a first-place finish at the Rattler Invitational, but he remains a student of the game.
“The pin that he got from the championship this weekend was a defensive pin. He didn’t have control on his opponent, but instead the move that he did was a scramble that he does here with Diego,” Clark said. “When they scramble, they get in weird situations and one wrestler may not have control of the other, but somehow manage to get the other guy to this back. That’s what he did to the kid from Edcouch-Elsa. But that scramble is what he did here and learned here in this wrestling room.”
Alvarado was also battling an illness in the week leading up to the tournament and added 20 miles of running per day to his pre-match routine, 10 miles in the morning and 10 more at night, and still beat a previously unbeaten foe to advance to the championship match.
Alvarado plans to keep fighting at 113 pounds until January, when the 106-pound class moves up to 108 and he’ll move down. He knows that because of his ranking and record, he’ll get everyone’s best shot regardless of weight class.
He plans on using everything his brother and Clark have taught him at home and at his second home in the wrestling room to continue to fight towards the top.
“I know that people look forward to wrestling me because if they beat me, they get ranked up there as well. I go in every match ready with the mentality that I’m holding position and I’ve got to keep control of it,” Alvarado said. “I plan on not losing any more matches. I have set goals. I want to be a district champ, and then I want to be a regional champ and a state champ.”