Wrestlers Catch a Vision of Discipleship and Transform an Entire Community
Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leaders Take Their Love for Jesus to the Mats and Help Change the Lives of Kids Who Once Saw Wrestling as a Way Out
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—More than a decade ago, wrestling standout Tony Gomez feared he’d never hit the mats again after an accident. Not only did he return to the sport he loved, but his faith grew exponentially through his involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org).
Originally from San Jose, Gomez was a high school state and national wrestling champion. After experiencing a miraculous healing, both physically and spiritually, he went on to compete at the collegiate level—and received a God-given calling.
After leading FCA wrestling camps, Gomez teamed up with FCA Orange County and worked with FCA’s Mark Boyer and Barry Martinez. A first step was to connect with Santa Ana High School’s head wrestling coach Scott Glabb, who had started the first FCA Huddle at the school.
“Coach Glabb had a heart to get the athletes into both sport and Bible study,” said Gomez. “A lot of the guys came from rough neighborhoods. He decided, ‘If I can’t get them to be champions, I’m going to get them to know Christ.’”
As an avenue, Gomez asked three fellow wrestlers if they would be interested in coaching elementary kids at a nearby school. Together, they caught the vision of what could be and prepared by studying FCA coaching resources. From this disciple-making passion, the FCA wrestling program in the area grew and participation increased. Business leaders offered financial grants for tutoring programs and giveaways. Eventually, from one wrestling Huddle at a single high school, the FCA presence in Santa Ana exploded to 10 multi-sport and multi-campus Huddles.
Throughout that time of growth, God used the transformed lives of the wrestlers to reach others, such as Mario Munoz.
At first, Munoz had little interest in FCA, but free pizza got him in the door. Ultimately, the fellowship kept him coming back. A broken home and feelings of solitude left Munoz feeling angry and even got him kicked out of a practice and expelled from school. Yet he kept returning to the FCA Huddle each week. When he attended FCA wrestling camp, he gave his life to Christ.
“The encouragement from staff and peers was beyond liberating,” Munoz said. “I remember looking around during my first concert to follow the lead and by the end of camp, I was the first to raise my hands in praise.”
Long-lasting friendships, a sense of teamwork, the confidence to try his best, responsibility to complete tasks and the honor to “view myself as something more than what statistics told me I would become” changed Munoz’s life. He joined the military, graduated from college and now he’s returned to Santa Ana to lead the FCA wrestling club and Santa Ana High School school’s wrestling team in the wake of Coach Glabb’s retirement.
“I know the hardships the students struggle with,” said Munoz. “I want kids to know there are people that care for them. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, but the lessons I learned along the way will forever motivate me to help where God needs me.”
In a city where many wrestlers saw the sport as their way out, Munoz says he is seeing a shift.
“Kids used to move out and not come back,” he said. “But now, kids are coming back. That’s always been my dream—being a missionary to the city. I feel like these kids who were born here will take over and continue what God is doing through FCA.”
For more than six decades, FCA has been touching millions of lives—one heart at a time. Since 1954, the ministry has challenged coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful platform of sport to reach every coach and every athlete with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Around the globe, FCA focuses on serving local communities by engaging, equipping and empowering coaches and athletes to unite, inspire and change the world through the gospel.
Learn more about FCA here. For more information about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, visit FCA’s website at www.fca.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcafans or its Twitter feed @fcanews.