We rarely see a collegiate wrestler compete in other sports, yet Gaige Garcia continues to “wow” people with his success on and off the wrestling mat. Earlier this month, Garcia announced his transfer from Michigan to Lehigh via his Instagram. To get his full story, I reached out to learn more about Lehigh’s newest dual-sport athlete.
There is no doubt that Gaige Garcia has elite athletic talent. At Southern Columbia High School, he excelled at football, wrestling, and track & field. Although he spent a lot of his training time off the mat, Garcia argues that focusing on other sports helped him become a better wrestler.
“I was constantly doing something and keeping my body in shape at all times. Each sport requires different muscles and cardio, but they can help each other. Most importantly, when playing multiple sports you are working with all different athletes who can help motivate and push you along the way.”
A Top Ranked Recruit In Two Sports
Coming out of high school, Garcia was a sought-after athlete in both sports. In Football, Garcia set the Pennsylvania state record in touchdowns and was ranked as a 3 star recruit, according to 247 sports. He was a top 150 running back recruit in the nation and a top 30 player in Pennsylvania.
On the wrestling side, FloWrestling ranked Garcia as the #22 overall recruit in the country and the #3 ranked wrestler at 195 lbs. Garcia ended his high school wrestling career on a 97 match win streak that ran from the end of his sophomore season to the end of his senior season. By the end of his career, he finished with a record of 163-6, two PA state titles (SR and JR), and four total state medals. On top of that, Garcia earned the status of PIAA Most Outstanding Wrestler in 2020.
Honestly, Garcia could have even competed in track & field in college, considering he was a 3X PIAA state placer in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. But he had a tough decision to make in high school: should he compete in football or wrestling?
Garcia’s Tough Decision: Football or Wrestling?
Wrestling has been a huge part of Garcia’s life since he started wrestling at six years old. As he gained interest from colleges as a top prospect in football and wrestling, he pondered over which sport to continue collegiately. After going back and forth, he realized he loved both sports too much to leave one behind.
Competing in both sports will be challenging, but Garcia “will do whatever it takes to make it work.” In fact, he will have to miss the beginning of each wrestling season during his career. Though, Garcia assures Mountain Hawk fans that there is no stopping him once he gets on the mat.
Why Transfer to Lehigh?
Garcia describes Lehigh as “the perfect fit,” crediting the proximity to his family, strong academics and athletics, and a supportive coaching staff. He will still have four more years of eligibility after redshirting last season and will wrestle at 197 lbs.
But how does the Lehigh lineup look, and could Garcia break into it? In all likelihood, 5th year senior and reigning EIWA champion Jacob Jakobsen will start at 197 lbs for Lehigh next season. However fans could see Gaige Garcia leading the way for the Mountain Hawks as a dual-sport athlete during the 2022-2023 season and beyond. When I asked Garcia what his wrestling aspirations are, he had a clear, concise, and promising answer: “NCAA champion for sure.”