Heart of a Champion 

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The Bears wrestle with stiff competition at the Bank of Colorado Arena. The arena is a second home to the recent NCAA Wrestling Champion Andrew Alirez.

In every athlete, there is a drive in them to push for success and University of Northern Colorado athletes are no exception. They are always on a year-round grind to ensure they’re in peak shape for their upcoming seasons. Andrew Alirez took this drive and has been making a name for himself in the wrestling world. His unwavering dedication and skills have made him a formidable opponent on the mat. 

Alirez is well-known in the Greeley community as he was one of the top recruits from the class of 2019. He was raised in Greeley and discovered his passion for wrestling at the age of six. Throughout his time at Greeley Central High School, he dominated the wrestling scene by winning four state championships. His technique, agility and relentless work ethic set him apart from the rest. It was no surprise when he received multiple scholarship offers from colleges known to be wrestling powerhouses.

He chose to stay home and represent UNC instead of going to an out-of-state university. This proved to be a game changer for the UNC wrestling team.  

Alirez quickly proved himself as an asset to the team. His talent combined with training and guidance from coaches allowed him to excel. The depth of Alirez’s dedication is evident in his pursuit of improvement and unwavering commitment to his teammates. Xavier Vasquez, a teammate, was clear on Alirez’s impact to the team. 

“He lives and dies by wrestling,” Vasquez said. “He’s been wrestling for a long time now and you can see it in the way he carries himself on the mat.” 

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Throughout his college career, Alirez has faced challenges and obstacles. He had to overcome an undisclosed injury sustained during practice. This prevented him from reaching his goals and aspirations during the 2020-2021 wrestling season.  

Alirez had to withdraw from the 2021 NCAA championships from the injury he obtained. It was a long road of recovery for the injuries that set him back.  

“Having to overcome the injuries I had was an uphill battle,” Alirez said. “Overcoming those injuries helped me grow up as person along with getting stronger.”  

Overcoming those injuries and setbacks paid off for Alirez as he captured the Big 12 title this past spring. Winning the Big 12 title was a great accomplishment for Alirez as he believed he could overcome the obstacles and persevere. 

“I felt like I was destined to win,” Alirez said. “Having my teammates support me throughout the journey helped me grow as a person on and off the mat.” 

After capturing the Big 12 title, Alirez wrestled for Team USA at the Ziolkowski Memorial Tournament in Poland. He defeated three-time champion Haji Aliyev this past summer. 

For this upcoming season in Bears wrestling, Alirez has chosen to use the Olympic Redshirt as he’s going to train and hopefully qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics in France. An Olympic Redshirt is when an athlete chooses to not represent their school by training with the hope of qualifying for the upcoming Olympics. A year of eligibility won’t be taken away from an athlete when using the Olympic Redshirt.  

Alirez’s accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. He has firmly established his status as one of the nation’s premier wrestlers by winning against stiff competition within his weight class. His win against Real Woods from the University of Iowa proved to be no easy task.  

The next time you can catch the Bears on the mat will be at the Bank of Colorado Arena on Dec. 10 in a dual meet against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Bears will stay on the hunt for more titles even if Alirez is off preparing for the Olympics.

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