The Chomp:  A sit down with SF State wrestler Kweli Hernandez-Maitre

The Chomp: A sit down with SF State wrestler Kweli Hernandez-Maitre

Welcome to the Xpress podcast, a podcast that brings city and statewide perspectives to SF State news. Staff reporter Victor Harris Jr. and Sports editor Arman Archounian touch on local sports and sit down with SF State wrestler Kweli Hernandez-Maitre to talk about his experience from the summer, his goals for this season and his perspective on the tragic loss of teammate Hazah Alsaudi earlier this year.


Victor: Welcome back to the chomp podcast. My name is Victor Harris Jr. I’m a writer on the staff.
Arman: And I’m Arman Archouniani, the sports editor on staff.

Preview of the Show

Victor: We will talk to Kweli Hernandez, a junior on the wrestling team. We’ll also get into our local sports teams and talk about the SF State sports teams in action.

News Brief

Arman: So going into our local sports teams, the 49ers are 2-0 now after a win against the Rams, Victor, how do you feel about the 49ers? Are they the best team in the NFL, the NFC, how do you feel about them?

Victor: In terms of NFC? I think they’re in competition with the Cowboys right now. Cowboys defense is looking really good, but the Niners is right there with him. So I think they’re competing up there for the one or two spots right now definitely. In terms of NFL, easily top three. Once again, it’s them and the Cowboys and then it’s jostling between, like maybe the Chiefs and the Bills in the AFC, my dark horse team though is the Ravens, but I think they’re right up there in the top echelon so they’re shaping up pretty well so far in the beginning of the season starting off 2-0, especially on the road.

Arman: What do you think needs to change, or what can they do to get them to that next level of being the best team in the NFL?

Victor: To be honest, I think it’s just like going with Brock Purdy and his growing pains he saw this past week like he missed a few deep shots and stuff like that, something we’re used to seeing like Jimmy G, so a lot of things that held us back was those explosive plays over the top. So just waiting to see if Brock can take that next step this season and like really correct that throughout the season and then we know when the playoffs get here, like that’s what really matters for us anyway. So once they get to the playoffs, and those opportunities arise, you gotta make sure Brock Purdy can take like advantage of those and that’s going to take us into the next level.

Arman: Yeah, I mean, talking about getting into the playoffs, one team that hasn’t been missing the playoffs in the NBA has been the Golden State Warriors. I mean, they’ve been on the peak of NBA talk for a while now, almost close to a decade. I mean, how do you feel about this season? You know, new acquisitions with Chris Paul, getting rid of Jordan Poole, I mean, what’s the ceiling for this team?

Victor: Sky’s the limit with this team championship or bust usually at this point, especially with Curry, Klay and Draymond being at the age they’re at. I know a lot of a lot of fans didn’t like the departure of Jordan Poole, but I think it was kind of necessary after the postseason performance he had. It was to the point where he couldn’t even run the offense, but you couldn’t get it like any points from them. You couldn’t get assists from him. You just needed somebody to run the second unit, take the pressure off Curry and the starting five, so I think adding Chris Paul, to anchor that second unit and just be another playmaker on the team to take a lot of pressure off of him, is there any like any other additions you think the Warriors need to make to make sure they get to that next step?

Arman: Oh, yeah, I think, you know, honestly, in the last couple of days, we’ve heard about Dwight Howard coming to the Warriors, I think he could add some, like veteran presence to, you know, just giving Looney some time off, not all that wear and tear on his knees for, you know, 82 games plus the playoffs. I mean, it takes a toll. I mean, he’s played for, I think almost the last two seasons, he’s had 82 game seasons. So that’s obviously going to take his toll on him. And, you know, just going into the playoffs, you know, you want some fresh guys. So, I think getting in Dwight Howard, you know, he’s a defensive anchor as well. He’s obviously not the player he was, you know, maybe like, seven, eight years ago, but I think he still adds something to the bench, you know, him and Chris Paul, they could come off the bench. That’s like a pretty good, big-man point guard type of deal where you get some pick-and-roll action going, maybe give the defense something else that they got to take care of, instead of just running around with Curry off the ball. Maybe you have some on-ball stuff with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. So I think honestly, that could be a really good tandem going into the NBA season and they probably got some the ceiling for them as basically an NBA championship. I think, you know, getting Chris Paul his first ring, it’d be pretty ironic that it comes with the Warriors, which is a funny topic of discussion, but yeah, I think the Warriors they could win a championship but they could also maybe not even make the playoffs. Who knows. But I think there’s a better chance of winning the championship.

Victor: And I’ll add to that is, I believe the addition of Chris Paul can really help Jonathan Kuminga and if Jonathan Kuminga can come along, that definitely helps their chances of getting to that championship. So I look forward to seeing that.

Arman: Yeah, speaking of sports team, our SF State sports have begun. We have the volleyball team, they are currently five and five five wins five losses. Their next couple games are against Cal State East Bay and Cal State Monterey Bay at the Don Nasser Family Plaza so make sure to go check them out and support them on their journey during the season.

Victor: And sticking SF State sports, over this past weekend the Men’s soccer team took a tie and a W against Westminster and MSU Denver. Currently, the soccer team is 2-2-1. They got a chance to turn it around. As for the women’s soccer team, it’s been a rough start five straight losses to begin the season and currently 0-5 but they got a chance to write the ship. The next upcoming game is at Fresno Pacific and that’s gonna be on the road at Ramirez Field. So hopefully we get a turn out there and more importantly a W.


Victor: And now we’ll get into the interview with Kweli Hernandez, next on the Chomp.

Victor: Alright, so we’re here with Kweli, and thank you for taking the time out, man. Appreciate you coming in.

Kweli: Thank you for having me.

Victor:Yeah, no problem, no problem. Just to give everybody a background, so you’re from the LA area, right?

Kweli: Yeah, I’m originally from LA, came up here for college, and then see where Ima go after college.

Victor: You went to Calabasas High School right?

Kweli: Yeah.

Victor: There you was playing wrestling and football right?

Kweli: Yeah, I played, I did football all four years, then wrestling started my sophomore year. I was doing them both offseason during Wrestling. Wrestling was actually my offseason sport, it was either between cause coaches want us to do some in the offseason it was either between track and wrestling and I’m not running so I was like, I need more contact like I need more wrestling.

Victor: Yeah, it makes sense because I know for sure wrestling definitely like in some aspects help you in the football field for real so.

Kweli: Yeah, it did.

Victor: For sure. So you was playing outside linebacker and fullback?

Kweli: Yeah.

Victor: I saw some of your highlights like, you was nice. So like, did you have any offers for football?

Kweli: Yeah, I did have a couple offers. I could have played football, but I wanted to wrestle and I was like, D or like NAIA I didn’t really want to play in NAIA, and I was like, I’d rather just try and walk on at SF and see how it goes. I was ready to be like a normal student, not a student athlete.

Victor: Your time wrestling like you said you picked it up after football in high school. Like when did it like click for you like I kind of liked his wrestling stuff like for real.

Kweli: Like my first practice honestly, I was, it was the next morning after I woke up and my body was just hurting like I never felt it before and I was like, this wrestling is different. I’m gonna stick to it and it’s just you can’t get any more physical to me like I played a lot of sports. I played baseball, basketball, or soccer and just wrestling it just did it for me.

Victor: So what like played into your decision to be at State?

Kweli: I had, it was between SF State and Cornell College in Iowa. I was gonna wrestle out there off a scholarship but I want to be somewhat close to my family but like far enough so that they can’t come see me whenever they want so yeah, I chose here I got in contact with the coaches and ended up trying out they didn’t I didn’t make it I got cut and then they call me a week later was like, Yeah, we made the wrong decision. We want you back. So I was like, ‘Let’s go’.

Victor: Gotta make them make the right decision, man. Boy, overcame some adversity early. So what was your first impressions like being here at SF State, you know, just like you mentioned, like dealing with getting cut, but then them coming back and like, ‘Yo, we made a mistake’, like what was your first impression is like the campus and then the vibe you got from the team and the coaches?

Kweli: The vibe of campus was really cool. I didn’t come on a visit here so it was first time I was out here was the first time ever being in SF. I felt like it has some similarity similarities, cultural-wise to LA, which was kind of cool, like clicked in with some people. That was cool. The team, the team was really open but of course, they’re not really open to you, which I realized until you’re actually on the team, which I was like, realizing until I made the team I was like, Okay, yall didn’t really mess with me like that but it’s cool.

Victor: Guess you gotta like,

Kweli: You gotta earn it.

Victor: For sure, you can respect that you can respect that. So this is your third year at State third year on the wrestling team. How would you like describe your first two years wrestling?

Kweli: So I walked on and I wasn’t at the level of my teammates at all. Like, I was getting dogged the whole first year, dogged on every day and I just I grew from that, like having my head in the mat. Like that is different. They call me they used to call me junkyard dog because like I would just get dogged on but I was like never stop moving like always trying to like hit him back and from that I feel like I grew into like a more aggressive wrestler more like now they call me dog I’m not the Junkyard Dog no more but yeah, but yeah, it was it was tough at first but now it’s cool, yeah.

Victor: So when would you say like that switch kind of flipped for you where you was like ‘alright now I’m starting to pick it up like I feel like I belong here now’.

Kweli: I actually wrote on one of my goals like my freshman year goals, that I wanted to be able to compete with everybody in the room just be able to compete like go takedown for takedown. I just get kept on getting taken down and trying to get back up. Yeah, but once I started competing with them like, Okay, now we are scrapping. I’m like, Okay, I fit. I belong.

Victor: After you get comfortable, find out like, Yo, I belong here, you get that great opportunity to go represent Puerto Rico.

Kweli: Yes.

Victor: In the Pan American Games. Like when you got that call, or however you received, notice that you’re going to represent Puerto Rico, like what was going through your mind how that feel like, how did your family react? Can you like walk me through like that feeling of knowing like, ‘Yeah I get to go represent’.

Kweli: So actually as a kid I have like, my dad showed me pictures of like Puerto Rican basketball players, back then, as a kid, I played basketball. I’m like, Yeah, I want to represent where I’m from, Puerto Rico and I before wrestling, I thought I was gonna do it through like basketball or baseball or something, but wrestling, I was like, I never knew that I would represent Puerto Rico in wrestling and so when I told my dad, he was really proud of me. He’s Puerto Rican. So he’s like Puerto Rico. Yeah, they’re really proud. I got to reconnect with some of my Puerto Rican family out there. I haven’t been to the island in I don’t know how long because of the summer training. I’m always busy, so that was cool, got to reconnect with some of them out there. I’m like, next time I see you, I’m gonna speak Spanish. Like it was cool. Yeah, I’m really proud of myself to represent Puerto Rico. It was really fun going to see all the different cultures like different teams going out there. Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, it was crazy. Yeah.

Victor: When you were there at the venue, was it pressure for you just being there knowing like how you just said, like, your dad was proud of you. Your family’s proud of you. Like did you feel any like extra pressure going into it?

Kweli: Yeah, I did. I felt more of like, bigger, not bigger, but like more, ‘I have to represent more’ you know like, I’m here representing my whole country at this weight.

Victor: And you were at 189?

Kweli: Yeah.

Victor: So when you got there, like you just described like you’re going through that road of like, getting cut, and getting back on a team and then you know, finally like earning your stripes and you know you’re the dog now so you feel like everything you went through kind of prepared you for that moment?

Kweli: Yeah, absolutely. I was, I’ve been through being not a non student athlete really made me hungry again. I’m like, Damn, I missed it. Like, I thought it was over. I’m like, my, like my career’s over no more practices. No, nothing, and I thought at that moment, I was like, if I can have this back I will do anything like and right there I was like, just tell me what to do coach, I’ll do it.

Victor: I’m happy for you because as somebody who used to play sports in high school too and like when it’s when it’s over, like it’s over.

Kweli: Yeah.

Victor: So you really got to try to like figure out what’s next and just to see you get that opportunity that’s big and for you to take advantage of that opportunity is a lot man and not only did you take advantage of it, you placed like you took home the bronze.

Kweli: I got a bronze, yeah.

Victor: Nice, where do you got that hanging up right now?

Kweli: Oh, it’s back, I left it in LA with my family. Yeah, yeah, I felt that too during COVID cause like my season was over I was like I was playing football back then. I was like ‘Damn just let me put his helmet back on’ and like I didn’t get to put it back on so that’s why I chose wrestling too.

Victor: Some people who know about wrestling like who appreciate art of like combat and stuff like that. They can appreciate wrestling and what goes into it. What would you say to somebody who isn’t really like familiar with wrestling the most hardest parts that go into like preparing for a match?

Kweli: For me it’s it’s the mental aspect like just going out there and wrestling that’s what I need to like focus on not thinking about what he’s gonna do, what moves he’s gonna use me with it, how intimidating he looks like it’s all it’s all in my head for me I really get nervous before matches, but Mancini, my coach Mancini, he tells me just remember how hard you work to get here just remember that they weren’t out there at 7am doing those miles putting that work just trusting your training that’s that’s what really helped me.

Victor: Not only did you guys like go through a tragic situation earlier in the year with the loss of Hamzah.

Kweli: RIP Hamzah.

Victor: Can you talk about how that like affected you like and the team going through that hard time?

Kweli: Yeah, we during that time we really the whole team stayed close. We were all really struggling. We went to the beach, we laid out some flowers, we set up prayers, some other sports teams came and supported us too we even have like a Hamzah Day because Hamzah was he was a goofy person. Love my boy. He was goofy though but we would like wrestle in like goofy crop tops and practice and stuff. Some like shorts shorts and like weird socks. Just for him though but yeah, it was cool. Like we showed our respect his shoes are still hanging up in our room. Yeah, and they going to stay there until I don’t know. But yeah, love you Hamzah.

Victor: RIP. What are the goals like for you, the team, like what are the goals going into the season? You guys are training right now. Right?

Kweli: Yeah.

Victor: Okay, and then you guys got a match coming up pretty soon right?

Kweli: Yeah, we do.

Victor: Okay, for sure. What are some of the goals you guys got for this season?

Kweli: I would say our goals is to come on top of out of every duel I’m not trying to lose no duels. I’m trying to be on top of everything. Get some some all Americans this year. I’m tryna be All American just compete in duels and get on top.

Victor: I’m sure y’all putting in that work right now so I’m pretty sure y’all be ready for it for sure. So you got a big match coming up, right? What’s like the go to song for you like you’re getting ready for a big match, man.

Kweli: Go-to song.

Victor: It ain’t even gotta be just one situation, who are you gonna be listening to like to get ready?

Kweli: Alright, it’s either between like NBA or no corny stuff. NBA, either like Future or like, X, Juice Wrld. You know, that’d be fighting my demons.

Victor: Yeah, get ready for war what you mean. So when you was at the Pan American Games, what if you can remember what was you like listening to at the time?

Kweli: I was listening to some Spanish stuff, some Puerto Rican music.

Victor: My boy was ready. You locked in.

Kweli: I had to put on like I was like, give me some Puerto Rican stuff. If I asked my dad, give me some Puerto Rican music. I’m not in touch with the Puerto Rican artists out there so I need you to put me on some, you know. I got a whole playlist when I came back too.]

Victor: You good now.

Kweli: Yeah.

Victor: You ready now. It’s all good, man. Well, I know you guys getting ready for the season. Best of luck to you to you and everybody on the team. I’ll be there. Hopefully everybody else will be there now knowing who you are, what you represent and what you stand for man and I really appreciate you taking the time out props to you for sure.

Kweli: Thank you for having me. Thank you for the opportunity and protect the swamp.

Victor: For sure.


Arman: That will conclude this episode of the Chomp Pod and we’ll be back and make sure to follow us on Twitter at the Chomp Pod and Golden Gate Xpress at GGX News.

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About the Contributors
Victor Harris Jr
Victor Harris Jr, Podcast Editor
Victor Harris Jr (he/him) is a reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. Raised in Fairfield, California, he is a transfer student from Solano Community College, majoring in Journalism with a minor in Management. During his free time, you can find him watching sports, bowling, gaming, or working on his sports podcast, More Trophies.
Arman Archouniani
Arman Archouniani, Sports Editor
Arman Archouniani (he/him) is the sports editor for Golden Gate Xpress. He is majoring in journalism and minoring in media literacy. He was born and raised in Daly City and enjoys living in the area. As a kid, his dream was to become a professional athlete. Arman loves his local sports teams such as the Golden State Warriors, the San Francisco 49ers, and the San Francisco Giants. He was previously the sports editor for The Skyline View at Skyline College. His dream now is to become a sports analyst for a major sports media company.

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