PROFILE: Cito Santiago wrestles to win for Rider

Written by: Jamie Strickland

Ramon “Cito” Santiago Jr., a twenty- year-old junior at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, says he never thought he would become a wrestler, let alone a champion.

“I thought I was going to grow up and play Major League baseball,” Cito said in a recent interview with The VOICE. “I didn’t expect for wrestling to take off at all.”

According to Ramon Santiago Sr., Cito’s father, Cito was always a great athlete, every sport he tried he was good at and wrestling was no exception.

As a junior at Sayreville High School, Cito placed in a state wrestling competition becoming a High School All American and defeating the second best high school wrestler in the country.

“It felt great to win,” said Cito. “Having a big crowd with all eyes on me is one of my favorite things about wrestling.”

Determined to help his son become the best wrestler he could be, Ramon Sr. would drive Cito fifty minutes from their house four times a week to train at Melisha Wrestling Club in Lodi, NJ.

Cito continued to wrestle all through high school, winning more than 100 matches and becoming a three time district champion. Cito earned a full wrestling scholarship to Rider University which is a Division I school.

According to Cito, wrestling in college is very different than in high school.  The matches are longer – about eight minutes compared to seven in high school.  And in college everyone on his team is a state champion, unlike in high school where people just signed up for something to do.

“[Cito] is a very talented wrestler and a lot tougher since last year,” said Gary Taylor, Rider’s head wrestling coach.

As a freshman wrestler at Rider University, Cito won 20 matches before officially making it on the team as a Rider Bronc. Cito has won thirty-three matches since making the team and his father was there to see them all.

“Since day one I’ve never missed any of his matches,” said Ramon Sr., “I remember every name and face of everyone he ever went up against.”

According to Cito, what it takes to win isn’t always fun. Along with practicing with his teammates five days a week, Cito also has to maintain his weight, which is a twenty-four hour, seven day a week job. Everything that he eats or drinks affects his weight and that could take him out of the 157 weight class.

“It’s hard because I love to eat,” said Cito, “I look forward to the summer when I can eat what I want.”

According to the article, “Broncs Have Spirit of St. Louis” on gobroncs.com, two Bronc wrestlers went to St. Louis this past March to compete in the 2012 Division I Wrestling Championship. Cito was not one of them. Both Taylor and Ramon Sr. said Cito could have been more aggressive at the finals that led up to the championship.

“He was too cautious,” said Ramon Sr..

According to Cito, no loss will make his wrestling career final, there will always be another match and he will be ready for next year’s championship.

“He has a shot at All American next year,” said Taylor, “but he will have to work hard to get there, same with all our wrestlers.”

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Jamie Strickland
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