Cesar Luna an inspiration at home, leader among team


Alisia Sanchez

Ceaser Luna pins his opponent.

Mohamed Bafakih, Reporter

“He’s my Hercules, my hero, my everything. That’s how I define him.”

These are the words of 184-pounder Bakersfield College wrestler Cesar Luna’s mother, Lisa Rodriguez, after she saw her son take a rare loss against the state’s eighth ranked wrestler, Cuesta College’s Jeff Sanchez, here at the Gil Bishop Gymnasium on Oct. 10.

One of the most popular Greek mythology heroes Hercules, who was known for his exceptional strength and courageous acts, may be the best personified example in regards to Luna.

Before Luna partook in one of the most complete strenuous and courageous forms of services, the United States Marine Corps Reserve boot camp—which began exactly a year ago from today and lasted until April 2014—he previously experienced both physical and psychological obstacles which have shaped him to the young man he is today on and off the wrestling mat.

The second eldest of eight children (six girls and two boys), raised by a single mother, Luna faced several responsibilities and challenges early on, becoming the rock of the household.

“He takes it like he needs to do everything. He has always wanted to take the role of being the man of the house, and we have to respect him for that,” Rodriguez said.

Despite being born and raised in Bakersfield, Luna was called upon by his father—who had not been in his life often—to come to Delano where he lived during the summer of 2007 throughout junior high, and that’s where wrestling for Luna was discovered.

“There was no football or any other sport I was interested in so I decided to try wrestling. It was five of us on the team and I ended up going to state,” Luna said.

Although Luna went 0-2 in state, that time period at Almond Tree Middle School is when Luna discovered his potential with wrestling.

“I had strength, but no technique. When I went up against guys at state with technique, it made me realize I needed to work on it,” Luna added.

After departing Delano, Luna came back to Bakersfield to rejoice with his family and attended West High School where he starred in wrestling and football as well for four years.

With wrestling, his junior year was a huge statement for him where he made it past Valley unseeded at 160 pounds and turned the switch quickly.

“During Valley, I lost my first match and came back through consolation and won my next seven and placed third,” Luna said. “It was probably my favorite wrestling moment, since that was the farthest I had ever made it.”

Unfortunately, however, Luna went 0-3 in Masters but was one win away from state.

Luna wasn’t able to bounce back his senior year and get the ending he worked so hard for.

“Although I was ranked first in league, second in valley and 13th in state for my weight class, I ended up being one pound short prior to state and wasn’t able to qualify,” Luna said.

Nevertheless, Luna also took on football, which was quite a success for him.

“We (West) had a pretty bad offense, but a good defense,” Luna chuckled.

Luna rounded out his football-playing career with a Hometown Sports All-Star award, team MVP, and was an All-League player at the running back and linebacker position.

“I just always wanted to see what could be the next thing I can physically take on,” Luna said.

So one day Luna decided to take on diving after that devastating wrestling season during the spring of 2012.

“He came home and said he wanted to try diving because that’s all there is, and then I have to go to an award [ceremony] because he placed fifth for the first time [in the Valley],” his mother said.

After high school, Luna realized the importance of his family and making sure to be there for all of them every step of the way, particularly on the emotional and supportive side.

“I matured a lot after high school,” Luna said. “My relationship with my mother has grown so much over time to where she’s like my best friend now, and it gave me more of an understanding of what life gives you.

“It’s hectic having almost all girls in the household, but I try to show them that home is where it all begins. Everything I do and love, I do it 100 percent and I want them to do the same with whatever it is they do and show respect and responsibility.”

“My sister just got a big fat tuba and I asked her ‘Are you going to learn it?’ and she’s like, ‘Yeah,’ so I tell her ‘You better,’” Luna emphasized.

After Luna wrestled his freshman year at BC, he took the next year off to decide what could be the next thing for him, and that was when the United States Marine Corps Reserve came into play.

“Everyone has a back-up plan,” Luna said. “I remember telling myself ‘If I didn’t have sports, what else would I do?’ And so, I chose reserve so I can continue wrestling and pursue getting a degree. It seemed pretty cool to have the reserve as a background foundation.”

Luna is hoping to get his bachelor’s degree in business, but that may change.

During his time at the Marine Corps Reserve Depot in San Diego, Luna learned a lot. “This is the world’s best Marine Corps,” he said. “It taught me not to be ‘nasty’ as they would call it, and most of all, it taught me to be a better man.”

There were times as well when Luna wished he could be back at home, though.

“Since we were stationed next to the airport, I would always see planes fly over almost every hour and just wished I could be up there,” Luna recalled.

All in all, Luna’s experience over the six month period at boot camp helped him transition back into the sport that he couldn’t see himself walk away from.

“It was easy to transition physically from wrestling to the Marines because what we do in the wrestling room in two hours is about what we do on the base spread out into 24 hours,” Luna said.

Psychologically speaking, however, the mental aspect of the two helped him adapt to take on a leadership role as a sophomore for the wrestling team.

“We’re all coming together now,” Luna said. “I don’t like thinking of myself as a leader. When we run the track and I finish first and can get a break from it, I refuse because I want to be there for my guys. If it’s cutting weight, for instance, we all are designated to do so as a team for one another.”

Luna is currently ranked seventh in the state and nearly knocked off the number one guy in the state recently at the Modesto Tournament on Oct. 11.

The importance of Luna’s family drives him to his success and his mom expects that from him.

“We’ve been through so much but what he does here (on the wrestling mat) is what’s going to lead him to his future career, like his strength for instance,” Rodriguez said.

Luna’s younger sister, the third eldest of 8, Paulina Luna, was also able to express her thoughts on her big brother.

“He’s a role model. If he sees any of us down, he always brings us up. The house isn’t the same without him around,” Paulina mentioned.

Luckily for them, after Luna completes his education here at BC, he plans to stay close to home and hopefully attend CSUB to further his education and wrestle for the Roadrunners while still being involved with the Marines for the next five years down in Pasadena.

“I want to still be involved with wrestling, whether it’s coaching part-time or full-time. If that doesn’t work out, I would like to be an officer in the Marine Corps,” Luna said.

Without wrestling, Luna would already know what could possibly be next.

“I’m thinking crossfit, maybe,” Luna chuckled.

Luna would be the first in his family to hold a degree, which to his mother and siblings sets a perfect example of how expectations can lead to success, regardless of how high they are.