Javier Gonzalez. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)
VALE – When Javier Gonzalez was 8, the Ontario high school wrestling coach walked up to him, gripped his hand firmly and looked him in the eyes.
“You’re pretty good,” Charlie Anthony told him. “Keep it up. You’re going to wrestle for me someday.”
And he was right. By the time Gonzalez was in middle school, Anthony had become his wrestling coach, and he also ended up being his godfather through the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Ontario.
As Gonzalez grew up, his passion for wrestling increased, and Anthony told Gonzalez, “you’ll be a state champ sometime.”
Again, the coach was right.
Gonzalez went on to be a two-time prep state champion.
“He was my father figure other than my dad,” Gonzalez said of Anthony. “He would always take a bad thing and make the best of it and try to make you move forward.”
That firm handshake set up a successful career as an athlete and a coach and motivated Gonzalez to devote himself to youth and his community.
Today, Gonzalez, a husband and father of three, coaches the Ontario girls high school soccer team, is the president of the non-profit Ida-Ore Soccer Club, and works for the Vale District Bureau of Land Management.
Gonzalez was born and raised in Ontario, and after graduating high school in 1996, he wrestled and played soccer in college.
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In 2007, Gonzalez graduated from Treasure Valley Community College with a wildland fire management degree before getting his first full-time job as a firefighter with the BLM the year after.
Gonzalez worked his way up the ranks at the BLM, and now works as an administrative assistant/firefighter and enjoys spending a couple of weeks to a month out of the year working in the field fighting fires.
Gonzalez recently was one of four finalists nominated out of dozens of BLM employees from across Oregon and Washington to receive the Human Resources Development Committee Above and Beyond Award.
Gonzalez was nominated because of his dedication to providing opportunities for students to play soccer through the Ida-Ore Soccer Club.
Gonzalez said there are a lot of benefits that come with being on a sports team, including opportunities to travel and compete. One of his goals with the soccer club was to broaden his players’ horizons.
“Some of these kids have never been out of Malheur County,” Gonzalez said.
The soccer club builds confidence, giving student athletes an understanding that they have a chance at something bigger, he said.
As a coach, Gonzalez also feels he has a role to fulfill in his community.
He recalls how Anthony motivated him as more than just his coach. He was his teacher, helping him with his homework, and he was involved in the community in many ways.
“You have those coaches that are part of your community,” Gonzalez said. “They’re your teacher. They’re your coach. You see them at the grocery store. They come to church, you see them at church. They care about your grades, they care about your family. Things like that.
“And I think that is kind of what I’m trying to do.”
If he can influence just one student athlete the way Anthony affected him, he said, he will have done well for his community.
The 2019 soccer season ended with the Lady Tigers improving their prior record of 1-11-1 overall and 0-6 in league to 5-8 overall and 4-2 in league, launching them into the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
It was a reversal of fortunes for a team that perhaps had lacked confidence. At least until Gonzalez came along.
“Now they know they are good enough to continue and make it to state,” Gonzalez said about the team. “No matter what. Nobody is stopping us.”
Gonzalez tells his athletes that in the end, there is no such thing as losing.
“You either win. Or you learn.”
News tip? Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.
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