By: Conor Blake, Staff Writer
Raúl Gierbolini, a member of the Men’s Wrestling team and a junior majoring in athletic training from Carolina, Puerto Rico has come a long way from home to help the Huskies on the mat this year.
Gierbolini graduated from University High School, in Puerto Rico. During his time he became a five-time Pan American Medalist, a two-time Central America Champion and Medalist as well as having a fourth place finish in the Florida State Championship. Since coming to USM he had an official record of 9-10 his freshman year and 18-13 his sophomore year. Aside from his success on the mat, he achieved the honor of becoming a William B. Wise Scholar-Athlete in 2017-18.
To top is all off, Gierbolini is extremely involved in the USM community entering his second year as a resident assistant.
The Free Press spoke with Gierbolini this week about his wrestling background, career goals and what it is like to go to school 1,874 miles from home.
Q: Why did you start wrestling?
A: I started wrestling because I liked the shoes. The real reason why, is my physical education coach who was a 3 time Olympian for Puerto Rico. He was doing some studies on kids who do and do not have ADHD, and during the study he found me and said that I would be good at wrestling due to my body type. At the age of 10 I started wrestling and I haven’t stopped since.
Q: What about the sport of wrestling have transferred to other areas of your life?
A: Wrestling is the type of sport that once you experience the lifestyle, and learn about how disciplined you have to be, it sort of makes other things in life easier.
Q: Which weight in wrestling do you like wrestling at the most?
A: This year I will be wrestling at 174lbs, but our coaches do a good job of giving me many opportunities to wrestle at different weight classes. I’ve wrestled at 164lbs and 194lbs before and that has helped me determine that I prefer the 174 pound weight class.
Q: How are you looking to improve this year?
A: I’m going to try and be more vocal this year, and lead by example. I take the sport very seriously, and having teammates that take it just as serious helps me get better as well.
Q: How do you balance school with wrestling?
A: My faith is a really big part of balancing my school work with my wrestling. Connecting with that church community and the school community has helped me to surround myself with people that are supportive of everything that I’m doing. They provide comfort motivation to stay balanced and get work done.
Q: What is it like going to school 1,874 miles away from home (Puerto Rico)?
A: From the personal side of things, being a long way from home and not really knowing many people, the communities at church took me in, and I’ve even been able to connect with family who has taken me in and I eat meals with them. From the wrestling perspective, I’ve had to embrace a new style of wrestling which has been different but it has helped me grow as a wrestler.
Q: What do you do outside of the sport of wrestling?
A: I like to run half marathons and run in general. I run because it makes me think about my dad and the time I used to spend with him back home. Otherwise I really don’t have a lot of time to do a ton of things, so I just make sure that if I have free time I am with people that love me and care about me.
Q: What do you want to do after school?
A: I want to go to graduate school for physical therapy. Currently, I am trying to get my bachelor’s in athletic training, but I hope to one day work as a physical therapist. While there are many different branches of physical therapy, I want to assist athletes and hopefully do so in Puerto Rico.
Q: Who is your inspiration?
A: Both of my parents really give me a great push in life. My dad specifically inspires me because of how hard he is working. I’m 20 years old and he is 55 years old and he is working just as hard as I am and I really admire that.
Q: How have your coaches helped you on mat?
A: They have made a really great impact on me in terms of wrestling because when I wrestled back home in Puerto Rico, it was a different style of wrestling, so I had to learn how to change my style to compete at USM and they were a huge help in that.
Q: What would teammates say about you?
A: They would say, I am a nice guy who works extremely hard and is always willing to be there for them.
Q: What will you remember about USM?
A: To be honest I will remember all the hardships I’ve had to go through. It taught me how to persevere and get through things. Looking back at myself 4 years ago when I moved to Florida and then came to USM. All the hard times have helped me grow, and while it was not easy, at the end of the day I am proud of where I am and I will remember how USM helped me improve.