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CHS alumnus wins beach wrestling national title

Aug 25, 2022

By: Krysyan Edler

Mark Bonilla missed out on his dream of winning a wrestling state title in high school, but in May, he walked away with a title his high school-self had never heard of: the U.S. Beach Wrestling National Champion.

Bonilla entered his senior season of wrestling at Connell High School ready to win the state title he had been hunting for the last three years, but COVID-19 cancelled the season.

He had dedicated his summer to wrestling and felt confident about the 2020-2021 season. Having competed in a national tournament, where he beat a Florida state finalist in triple overtime, before losing by one point to a North Carolina state champion, who went on to win the tournament.

“He probably put in more work in the offseason than anybody and got no opportunity to show his hard work,” said Scott Forsyth, Bonilla’s high school coach. “It’s tough to put in 100% effort to get nothing out of it.”

His work ethic and hyper-dedication to wrestling, as Forsyth describes it, hasn’t died down as Bonilla trains year-round.

“He has a passion for wrestling you just don’t see with the majority of young people because wrestling is difficult,” Forsyth said. “He dedicates so much of his life to the sport and just works his butt off.”

After graduating from CHS in 2021, Bonilla decided to attend Life University in Marietta, Georgia to continue wrestling and earn his doctor of chiropractic degree. It was there that he was introduced to beach wrestling, a popular international style that is gaining popularity in the U.S.

When his freshman season of collegiate wrestling ended in March, he didn’t stop training like some of his teammates. Instead, he continued to train for the U.S. Beach Wrestling National Championship, his first beach wrestling event.

“I chose to continue,” Bonilla said. “I didn’t want to stop. I love it too much.”

In his title-winning match, Bonilla faced a larger opponent, but he had a plan to beat him: tire him out. Then, he won the match with a takedown, push out and another takedown.

When it ended, Bonilla’s mind went blank. He helped his opponent up from the sand, shook his hand and then walked off, and that’s when it hit him. He was a national champion.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Bonilla said. “Coming from a small town like Connell, Washington, going down to Atlanta, Georgia, and then now going to Romania, it’s something I’ve worked for — never knew I would accomplish — but something I definitely worked for, and for it to pay off, it’s all thanks to my parents, my family, my team, my coach, [and] a lot of people.”

How can you top becoming a national champion? Bonilla will kick off his sophomore and final year of collegiate wrestling by competing in the Beach Wrestling World Championship held in Romania on Sept. 1-5 before he devotes his full attention to earning his degree.

“I’m super excited,” Bonilla said. “Once I wrestle out this world championship, I feel like everything that I wanted to do in wrestling is complete. I went to a state tournament, went to multiple national tournaments, wrestled in college, won a national title, and now I’m going to wrestle international. Like, what else can I do?”

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