Leading by Example both on and off the Mat – The Perez Perez Story by Al Fontes (Q&A)

University of Iowa – 3x Letter Winner (Photo: University of Iowa)

Al Fontes – Editor

In life, it’s about living it to the fullest. Trying new things, going on adventures, enjoying family and friends, learning from one’s mistakes and thriving to constantly improve upon it…to give back to those that gave to you. That has always been my mindset since an early age. We only get one shot at it! A big surprise to me was learning that Perez “Emilio” Perez of Windsor High School has been competing at the University of Iowa for the last five years and recently graduated. Although he was not a starter during those years, he proved that with hard work, commitment, and perseverance, you can still make a BIG difference in the dynamics of the team.

“Perez Perez has been an unbelievable staunch pillar of what this program is about when you’re not necessarily in the role that you want to be in,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. “He has done nothing but make this place better. He has done nothing but make his teammates better.”

2014 North Coast Section Champion

A native of Windsor, California, Perez first began the sport wrestling at the young age of 9 upon the request of his Dad’s friend. Taking his lumps early on in his wrestling career, Perez never gave up in the midst of defeat, but chose to move forward in his pursuit of achieving his goals. With time and repetition on the mat, Perez began to see the fruits of his hard work and commitment by earning a medal at the prestigious California State Wrestling Championships, the second to achieve this feat at Windsor High School. Perez also earned a North Coast Section (NCS) title in 2014, placed three times at NCS, and won four league championships. On top of these accolades, Perez also became the first wrestler in the Windsor area to earn All-American honors at the National Championships in Fargo, capping his high school career with four All-Americans honors overall.

In summary, Perez is an example of the American spirit, an individual that in the midst of adversity and defeat, moves forward regardless of the outcome. Competing for such a prestigious program like Iowa speaks volumes, especially when he has spent the last five years battling and surviving in the toughest and most demanding program in the country without being the starter at his weight. Perez is truly a leader both on and off the mat. This past week, I had the opportunity to speak with Perez about his journey, graduation, and where he plans to go in the future. Below is my Q&A with Perez Perez.



University of Iowa (Big 10)


Tom Brands (World/Olympic Champion)


Bachelors in Interdepartmental Studies – Business Focus (2019)

Minor in Spanish/Sports and Recreation Management


3x University of Iowa Letter Winner

Winner of the Coaches Appreciate Award

J. Donald McPike Award – Hawkeye Senior with the highest GPA


Windsor (CIF North Coast Section) Class of 2014


Rich Carnation (Head Coach), Kevin Guinn, Joe Ducharme, and Dan Dennis (Iowa – NCAA All-American/Olympian)

Perez Perez among fellow Greco-Roman All-Americans – Team California (Fargo)


6th CIF State Championships (2013 – 106)

CIF North Coast Section Champion 2014

CIF North Coast Section runner-up 2013

3rd CIF North Coast Section 2012

3x Greco-Roman All-American (Fargo)

USAW Folkstyle All-American 2014

4x League Champion (Sonoma County/North Bay)

CIF State Medalist


Perez Perez in the beginning

How did you first get involved in the sport of wrestling?

I first got involved with the sport of wrestling when I was 9 years old. My dad’s friend was the coach at the time and told him to bring the kids out to try it. I actually didn’t wrestle for a whole year at first because I did not want to wear a singlet. I eventually got over it, and ever since I got on the mat, I was hooked.

Who was your biggest influence in the sport?

The biggest influences for me in the sport have been my coaches, Kevin Guinn, Dan Dennis, Rich Carnation, Tom Brands, and Terry Brands. I was very fortunate to have great experiences with all of my coaches. They have always wanted the best for me and knew how to get the best out of me in whatever I did. They also always led by example, which was something I noticed from all of them and want to mirror in my coaching career. They have all had relentless styles of wrestling that molded how I wanted my wrestling to be. They taught me more about life then they ever did wrestling and I will be forever grateful for each and every one of my coaches.

Whom were your role models growing up? How did they inspire you to be the person you are today?

My biggest role models were the Brands brothers, Dan Gable, and really the whole Iowa program. They were who I always tried to be like when I wrestled. I knew I wanted to be in that room, and it’s cool that my role models as a kid are still the same until this day. I formed a really good relationship with Tom and Terry and they’re my still my role models, but in more aspects now, in wrestling, as coaches, and in life.

It’s my understanding that you have five brothers with the same first and last name, Perez Perez? Please explain…How do you address each other at home and abroad?

At home all of us go by our middle names. My middle name is Emilio, so that’s what I go by at home. My mom rarely ever calls us Perez. However, abroad or whenever we are not around family everyone refers to us as Perez wherever we go.

What are your fondest memories of wrestling at Windsor High School in the North Coast Section?

My fondest memories of wrestling at Windsor High School in the North Section was being the first ever 4-time league champion at Windsor and also winning NCS as a team. I remember it coming down to my finals match because we were down by one point in the team race and I was the last match of the tournament. It was cool to see us go from a team nobody really knew about to winning NCS. Everyone on the team helped us get to that point I was just glad it came down me to be able to get us the extra points we needed to win the tournament. It was cool to be a part of because I got to do it with my best friends.  

Having wrestled for and graduating from the University of Iowa, please explain how you chose Iowa as your college of choice.

I always dreamed of going to wrestle for Iowa but it was never really a reality in my mind. That was until Rich Carnation hired Dan Dennis as an assistant coach. We wrestled almost everyday and would get into some brawls. One practice we really got into and after the practice he texted me and said “I think you should go to Iowa.” At first I thought he was kidding but then he started talking to me about it more seriously and eventually he convinced me to go on a visit. Ever since that visit I fell in love with the Iowa Way of Wrestling, and Iowa City.

Iowa Hawkeye

Please describe your experience at the University of Iowa, both academically and on the mat. Also, what was it like to compete for Iowa legend Tom Brands?

My experience at Iowa was awesome. The room was intense everyday and Tom expects 100% out of you everyday. It is not just Tom that expects 100% out of you but the whole coaching staff and your teammates expect you to give your best effort in everything you do. Academically the classes were hard but just like wrestling the coaches expect you to give 100% in your academics as well. I got to be a part of the team with the highest average GPA in the team’s history. Competing under Tom Brands was everything you would expect. He is very intense and will not settle for mediocrity. He has a way of getting you to be your best everyday and I couldn’t thank him enough for making me into the man I am today. Him along with Terry, Morningstar, Telford and Berhow showed me a lot more than just wrestling. They showed me how to be a better man and a better person.

What’s it like to compete at the Carver Hawkeye Arena?

Competing at Carver Hawkeye Arena was surreal. It was the most nervous I had ever been for a wrestling match in my life. Seeing the thousands of people cheering for you in the stands is awesome. It almost gives you more power to compete harder. The fan base at Iowa is top notch and they really know wrestling. Very few people get the opportunity to compete in such a historic arena. Iowa City in my opinion is the wrestling capitol of the world and it was a dream come true to be able to wrestle at Carver Hawkeye Arena.  

Having wrestled in the Golden State throughout your youth and high school years, please describe the differences in wrestling culture between California and Iowa.

The wrestling culture is very different in Iowa than in California. It is like wrestling is embedded within the culture there. Iowa is wrestling. Every high school has a nice wrestling room and I feel like they get a lot more attention and followers. It is almost bigger than football and people take a lot of pride in the sport of wrestling. Iowa to wrestling is like Alabama to football. Where as in Northern California wrestling is not a very popular sport. Very few fans attend dual meets and it is just not a very popular sport in Northern California.

Based on what you have learned at the University of Iowa, what are your future plans in the sport of wrestling? Do you plan to coach and where?

My future plans in the sport of wrestling are to coach at Windsor High School as well at Windsor Wrestling Club. We actually have a camp coming up in Windsor that some of my teammates are coming to, so that should be fun. I obviously want to win some championships and make Windsor a name that people will automatically think wrestling. I know wrestling has taught me a lot about life and has helped me persevere through a lot of things. I want to use wrestling as a tool to help develop good people who are ready for life beyond high school. The reason I chose to come back to Windsor is because I want to give kids the same opportunities I had and show them that it is possible to come from a school nobody knows of and wrestle with at one of the top schools in the country.

Tell me more about the upcoming camp at Windsor.

Yes, I am getting together with three of my former teammates (Alex Marinelli, Kaleb Young and Pat Lugo) to do a clinic on June 11-13th in Windsor. It is something I plan to do every summer to help Windsor and other California kids to give them the opportunity learn from the best. 

How long have you coached the sport of wrestling?

I have helped coach ever since I was in high school. I would stay after our high school practices and help my dad coach the club kids. I have also helped coach my younger brothers ever since they started wrestling.

What do you enjoy most about coaching?

I enjoy watching a kid do a move right. There is just something very gratifying about spending time showing a kid a move then watching them execute it on their own. I also really enjoy seeing kids persevere through the hardships of practice. There is always that moment when a kid can either put his head on the mat and give up or keep fighting. I love that I get to be that voice in their head that cheers them on to realize their fullest potential and realize they do have more to give.

Outside the sport of wrestling, what other goals do you have in life?

My goal is to be a good Christian man. I want to live a Christ fulfilled and an abundant life with my friends and family.  

2014 CIF North Coast Section Team Champions – Windsor High School (Perez holding banner)

Perez Perez competing in Big 10 competition for the University of Iowa

2019 Windsor Camp

Perez Perez with Iowa teammates – 2019 Windsor Clinic

Perez Perez with Freedom High and Iowa Wrestlers/Clinicians – 2019 Northgate Clinic