By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
For a time, the Arteaga family tradition of wrestling was in danger.
Efrain had just finished seventh grade when he quit.
“I thought I wouldn’t try it again,” he said. “I didn’t have much motivation to keep doing it.”
After a year away, however, the 15-year-old freshman is back on the mat and enjoys it more than ever for Muskogee High School.
More importantly to him, this unique tradition – started by oldest brother Ronnie and continued by the next oldest sibling Hugo – lives on.
“My brothers were pushing me to try again,” Efrain said. “I came back in here (the wrestling room) and started practicing and liking it more. I wish now that I had kept going because I would’ve learned more and got more experience.”
Efrain isn’t doing too badly this season. He pinned his opponent from Claremore in the second period of his first match in the 106-pound division.
“I was so nervous,” he said. “I felt responsibility that I had to win because of what Ronnie and Hugo did.”
Ronnie, who graduated in 2010, wrestled at 112 and Hugo at 103 until he graduated last year.
“It’s gotten into our blood,” Hugo said.
Efrain Arteaga and the current Roughers are on the mat tonight when Sand Springs comes to town for the 7 p.m. dual. The winner captures the District 6A-6 championship and qualifies for dual state.
For Efrain, it doesn’t mean wrestling at lower weight is any easier.
“He’s at one of the most difficult weights to wrestle at,” MHS associate coach Dan Jefferson said. “The reason I say that is the smaller, quicker guys are at that weight. You got to have speed.
“The thing about Efrain is that he stays in such good position. He’s really a defensive wrestler for us right now and that helps him in stay in the match.”
But Efrain has the reputation, built by his brothers.
“Other coaches will see we have an Arteaga in the lineup and they immediately think ‘Uh-oh’ just from his name and what his brothers have done. He strikes fear into other people’s minds.”
Both Ronnie and Hugo finished in fourth place at the state tournament in their senior years.
Ronnie, now 19 and married with a young daughter, is proud how his younger brother is keeping up the family name.
“Hugo and I want to help out until he’s a senior,” Ronnie said. “We want Efrain to do better than we did. Wrestling taught me about how to be there supporting my brothers. It’s great he’s picked up on the things I did.”
Efrain looks to his brothers for advice. Hugo continues to help out the program. Understandably, he does his best coaching when the Arteagas are at home.
“He’s my personal trainer,” Efrain said. “He keeps controlling my weight, seeing what I eat. He’ll always tell me what I could do better or should’ve done in a match.”
The Arteaga tradition will likely live on as third grader Luis is competing in the youth program. But that’s down the road.
In the meantime, Efrain has three more years.
“People see me and ask how I’m doing or how much I like it,” he said. “I really love getting my hand raised after winning a match. I’m just now training to get better.”