March 11, 2013
Nevada Union's Jonny Callas has built up quite a profile over the years, on and off the mat.
Callas begins his run at a CIF state wrestling championship today at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield after repeating last weekend as the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion in the 138-pound weight class. The senior is now NU's last man standing for the 2012-13 season and ranked No. 6 in the state.
Callas' brothers have been especially influential in his life and career since he began pursuing the sport in his youth.
"My brothers (Zach Callas and Robin Callas) both wrestled, and they've been there to coach me," said Jonny. "They're the best I've ever had. They know how to push me and make me better."
NU head coach Gary Sumner knows firsthand how valuable Zach and Robin have been for Jonny's success.
"I coached both of them," Sumner said. "Zach finished sixth at the CIF state championships, and Robin was a national All-American. Robin is the best partner (Jonny) could ever have in a brother, and (Jonny) has the best coach he could ever have in his brother, Zach."
The Callas brothers aren't too competitive around the house, but they do wrestle each other in the gym a few times per week, Jonny said.
Sumner has also seen Jonny perform on the football field and remembers it well.
"I first coached Jonny in wrestling when he was 4 years old," added Sumner. "(Jonny) played Junior Miner football as a small running back, yet he would still drag three or four kids for 10 yards."
In addition to Jonny's coaches and brothers, extra support comes from his parents, younger sister (Jenn Callas) and dog, Gus.
"Jenn always supports morally," added Jonny. "She tries to make it to all my important matches and send me encouraging texts. My mom helps with anything, and dad is always driving me or getting food for me at the tournaments. My dog, Gus, has been around my whole life, and he's like a person to me. I wrestled him when I was young. He's always down visiting at the school, eating people's food, and everyone knows him."
If it weren't for Zach, Jonny's oldest brother, joining the wrestling team, there's no telling which sport the guys would have played.
"Zach started wrestling, and we just followed in his footsteps," said Jonny. "Ever since placing at that first tournament in second or third grade, I've started liking it more. It teaches you life lessons about hard work and believing in yourself."
During the season, Jonny remains focused and disciplined, investing most of his time into wrestling and family, he said.
As much time as Jonny has put in on the mat, he has demonstrated as much excellence off the mat as well, sporting a 3.6 GPA, according to coach Sumner. He is simply a hard worker who refuses to quit.
Future aspirations for Callas include wrestling at the collegiate level while focusing his academic studies in the field of business.
"I'm still waiting on some letters from colleges," said Jonny. "Most coaches wait until after state because that's all that matters to them. My No. 1 choice is Cal Poly. I'll be studying business. I've talked to their coach, and he says they're interested, and we'll keep talking. I'll find out soon."
San Francisco State and Oregon State are among his other choices on where to extend his wrestling career, Jonny added.
As far as studying business, a broad field offering a variety of avenues for any student, Jonny relates wrestling to it in an insightful way.
"It's hard to start up a business, and there's a lot of failure — like wrestling," he said. "I've learned to push through mistakes and keep on going."
All season long, there has been a lot of failure with limited success by a few individuals who rise to the top and into the spotlight for premier occasions. Jonny admits he was seen as the underdog on his trip to Masters last season, but this year, there was more pressure because he expected to win and not to live up to that would be disappointing. Now at the CIF state championships, Callas has an opportunity to go all the way.
"Last year, (Jonny) finished in the top 12 at state," said Sumner. "I'm confident (Jonny) will place this time."
To place, Jonny must finish inside the top eight, and to win the state championship, he can either run the table in the winners bracket and win six matches or stumble once and take the long road through the consolation bracket.
"My first two matches will be the easiest since I am a higher seed," Jonny said. "In the third match, I'll likely face No. 2 ranked Elijah Davis. He's more of a thrower, upper body type of guy. I'll try to counter with a low attack."
Also in the hunt in the championship bracket is Chris Garcia, whom Jonny considers to be somewhat of a rival.
"I beat (Garcia) in the Tim Brown Invitational final at the Sacramento Convention Center," Callas added. "I had a take down in the last 10 seconds and beat (Garcia) four to three. The first time, we wrestled last year, and I pinned (Garcia), but they've been close matches."
Jonny headed down to Bakersfield Thursday, allowing plenty of time for him to acclimate, get a good night's sleep and make sure he keeps the weight on by eating and drinking to make a solid run at a state title, Sumner said.
During the past six weeks since finishing the regular season, Jonny has been locked in at competing at the 138-pound weight class, which has meant a strict diet and lots of self-discipline.
A normal day consists of oatmeal for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch and grilled chicken with spinach for dinner, said Jonny. On nights after tournaments, Callas sometimes chooses to indulge more to his liking but says he burns it off the following day.
Once in the arena and counting down the minutes before each match, Jonny has a certain way he goes about things to loosen up and focus his mind on the task at hand.
"(Jonny) likes to put his headphones on when he starts to warm up," said Sumner. "It's how he gets in the zone."
Lots of wrestlers try to pump themselves up by getting angry, but Jonny firmly believes emotions can get the best of you once you step on the mat.
"I listen to rap to get pumped up and get my blood flowing, but right before the match, I listen to something that makes me feel good, like 'Man on the Moon' by Kid Cudi," said Jonny. "It relaxes me and puts me in a place in my mind where I'm calm. If my adrenaline kicks in too much, I'll get flustered. I used to get angry, and it's kind of a blur. You can't control yourself."
No matter the outcome at the championship tourney, one thing is for certain: The Callas family wrestling supremacy will always be one of NU's greatest.
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, call 530-477-4234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.