CdM wrestler Luke Villaluz commits to Cal Poly

Corona del Mar wrestler Luke Villaluz has committed to the Cal Poly wrestling program.
Corona del Mar wrestler Luke Villaluz has committed to the Cal Poly wrestling program.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The recruiting process has been far from traditional, for some, due to fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Corona del Mar High School’s Luke Villaluz recently committed to the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo wrestling program, but the road to doing so was packed with nervous moments and uncertainty.

Villaluz moved from Connecticut and joined the Sea Kings program just in time to help CdM win a CIF Southern Section dual meet wrestling championship in Division 6 in 2020, which was the first dual meet title for the program.

As a sophomore, Villaluz went 37-8 for the Sea Kings. And yet, he was still unsure of how to capture the attention of college coaches.

In January, Villaluz and his father visited the Cal Poly campus, where they had a chance encounter with an assistant coach of the wrestling program.

Villaluz indicated his interest in wrestling in college, and the question that stuck with him was one inquiring about how he had performed in the CIF State wrestling championships; he had not qualified.

“I’m thinking from then on, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there,’” Villaluz said. “‘I’ll sacrifice everything. I’m going to work my butt off in school, work my butt off on the mat, and really make wrestling as much of a priority as school now — both equivalent and working super hard in both.’”

Corona del Mar wrestler Luke Villaluz went 12-0 as a junior.
Corona del Mar wrestler Luke Villaluz went 12-0 as a junior last season.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The pandemic did not result in the outright loss of a high school wrestling season, but it existed only in the form of dual meets. The opportunity to post big individual wins at tournaments had been wiped away.

Villaluz, who weighs in at 5-foot-10, 144 pounds, did what he could with the chances provided. He went 12-0 in his junior season for the Sea Kings, helping his team advance to a second consecutive Division 6 finals appearance. Western won the team title this time, beating CdM 40-21.

“Being around a bunch of people that want to work hard, you almost can’t not want to work hard,” Villaluz said of wrestling for CdM. “When you’re around that many people that want to work hard, you want to do what they do, and that was really motivating for me.”

The next thing that Villaluz did was return to Cal Poly for a wrestling camp in June. As the camp neared its end, the assistant he had run into on his first trip, Chris Chionuma, asked him if he would be able to stick around to tour the campus.

He then had a Zoom meeting scheduled with the coaching staff after the weekend, and at the end of it, Villaluz was asked if he wanted to commit on the spot.

Corona del Mar's Luke Villaluz, left, competes against Western's Abram Marmolejo in the CIF Division 6 dual meet final.
Corona del Mar’s Luke Villaluz, left, competes against Western’s Abram Marmolejo during the 138-pound match in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 dual meet wrestling championships final at Western High School in Anaheim.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I was just in shock,” said Villaluz, who made his commitment on June 28. “I literally did not know what to say, and I said, ‘Uh, yes, yes!’

“The Zoom call ends, and I drive to Habit Burger with my dad, and we’re just in shock. A week ago, we would not have thought that I would be committed, and here we are this Monday, we’re committed.”

Corona del Mar also had another college-bound wrestler on last year’s team in Cal Baptist signee Emilio Franco, who competed in the heavyweight division.

“Luke moved to Newport Beach as an already highly-skilled wrestler,” Sea Kings coach Mark Alex said. “In addition to wrestling, he is an outstanding overall athlete. Luke continuously works hard to improve his wrestling skills. I’m very proud that he has committed to Cal Poly, which has a great wrestling tradition and will provide an excellent education.

“Luke is a great team leader and really helps motivate his teammates. With Luke’s skills and work ethic, I know he would have been competing at the state championships last season, if they weren’t canceled.”

“Luke is a great team leader and really helps motivate his teammates," Sea Kings coach Mark Alex said.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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