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Junior Jaden Perez to represent Puerto Rico in Pan American Games

Perez took down the competition to win his spot in the Pan American Games (photo via Jaden Perez)
Perez took down the competition to win his spot in the Pan American Games (photo via Jaden Perez)

Junior Jaden Perez took first in the Panam Trials at 60kg, or 152 pounds. He will now be representing Puerto Rico in the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic at the end of June.

Perez found out about the Puerto Rico World Team Trials from Vince Fitz, father of varsity wrestling coach Andy Fitz, who was Perez’s coach for a many years when he was a kid.

Perez had plenty to motivate himself going into the trials.

“I wanted to compete for Puerto Rico on the international stage because I wanted to represent my heritage because my family is very Puerto Rican, and I am very proud of it,” Perez said. “Also, I get to compete for my family name and my ancestors.”

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Family plays a big part in Perez’s wrestling career.

“I am doing this for my family in general because they are a big part of my life,” Perez said. “They mean the world to me and I want to make a mark.”

Family is also an important part of Del Val’s wrestling program.

“We spend a lot of time together on and off the mat,” coach Andy Fitz said. “It [wrestling] has a lot of individual and team aspects. We celebrate everyone’s accomplishments and what Jaden’s done is incredible, and we’re really proud of him.”

The road to the top wasn’t easy for Perez.

“I had six matches, and I won all them,” Perez said. “I had one close match against last year’s world team member. He placed second at the Pan-American games and got 9th at the world Championships. He is also a two-time state champ.”

Perez honored not only his family, but also the Del Val community, with his victory (photo via Jaden Perez)

Regardless of difficulty or situation, Perez always is positive.

“Jaden looks forward to each day, always looks to get better, is always upbeat, and there is no situation that fazes him,” Fitz said.

Perez’s positive attitude helped him throughout the tournament.

“I had kept my confidence throughout the entire event, but there were definitely some hardships along the way,” Perez said. “It is not a good idea to be doubtful in this sport.”

In the end, Jaden’s positivity led him to victory.

“I felt great because I wanted to win the event and get a world team spot for a long time, and it’s all I had thought about for like a month straight”

Coach Fitz had nothing but good things to say about Perez.

“Jaden is a very unique, incredible competitor who refuses to lose and is never out of a match,” Fitz said. “Jaden is able to win tough matches, and he can make it look effortless at times. Jaden came in as a very promising freshman and always had a high work ethic and had a promising freshman year. He really started to show what he was capable of, and he has had a good upward trajectory.”

The finals will be held at the end of June, and the whole team will be tuning in.

“It is incredible, and I hope that I can leave a positive mark on the people who come up through Del Val and at least try and motivate some fellow people,” Perez said.

This story was originally published on The Delphi on May 17, 2024.