Growing up in the Jimenez household, wrestling was ubiquitous. Their father, Simon Jimenez, coaches wrestling at Palma High School in Salinas, Calif., and coached the brothers throughout their wrestling career.
“We started competing around 9 or 10,” Isaiah said. “My dad’s been my coach since I started wrestling. For middle school, high school, everything.”
The brothers bring their family-wide tradition of wrestling to this year’s highly-touted SF State Gator wrestling team, with Isaiah competing in the 165-pound and Zach in the 184-pound weight classes, respectively.
Though they were in different weight classes, Isaiah and Zach trained and watched film together growing up, fueling the family-wide love of wrestling from an early age.
“When we were little we’d go in the workout rooms and mess around,” Isaiah said. “We would always work out and wrestle together.”
Sports are rampant in the Jimenez family. Their grandfather wrestled competitively, as did several of their uncles. Their mother Anna competed in Taekwondo for a decade, during which she became a second-degree black belt and finished second in the Taekwondo World Championships.
“We kind of got pushed from an early age,” Isaiah said. “Our whole family has been involved in sports, (my dad and uncles) were really successful in high school.”
To supplement the wrestling season, the brothers studied Taekwondo throughout their adolescence, competing in various tournaments. Though not directly related to wrestling, Isaiah recalls the competitions preparing him for tense moments during important matches.
“It helped going to big events and venues and not getting too nervous and shutting down,” Isaiah explained. “It helped in the competitive (side), being good and aggressive.”
This extensive fighting background has culminated in Isaiah’s success, as he is considered the team’s best wrestler, compiling a 15-6 record so far this season.
“He’s probably our top kid,” said head wrestling coach Lars Jensen. “Recently he’s gotten beat in some close matches. He needs to get in on his offense.”
Isaiah’s younger brother Zach is also a junior; though Isaiah is a year older, he red-shirted his freshman year so they have the same eligibility. Zach has struggled recently, but hopes to improve his season record of 5-9.
“It could be better,” Zach admitted. “Once the matches happen, you try not to let them dawn on you too much. You gotta look forward to February and March for regionals and nationals.”
Despite an up-and-down season, the brothers and their teammates are preparing for their upcoming conference tournament, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament, which determines who does and does not go to the NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championships March 9 and 10.
“We gotta stay in the matches, all seven minutes,” Isaiah explained. “We can’t give up late when we’re tired.”
The Gators traveled to Phoenix for a dual meet over the weekend, losing to RMAC rivals Adams State 27-10, and Grand Canyon University 25-10. The brothers think that dual meets are good tests both individually, and as a team.
“They’re important for regionals and seating,” Isaiah said. “They’re always tough.”
The team is looking to halt a current five-game losing streak, falling to 20th in the most recent NWCA Division II poll in the process. Isaiah recently fell out of the individual rankings in the 165-pound weight class, after beginning the season ranked sixth.
Though the team has struggled recently, the Jimenez brothers remain confident and focused on achieving their preseason goals.
“Goal number one is definitely (to) win the region. In my closet, every day I go in there it says 184-pound RMAC champion on the wall. And right underneath that it says national champ,” Zach said. “That’s always been my goal.”