King’s Vizcarra Inspires

By Joe Shinners

    There’s something about Edgar Vizcarra’s wide smile and positive outlook on life.

    The senior wrestler from Milwaukee King just has an aura about him that makes people stop and take notice. Maybe even take the time to have a conversation, if his interpreter is around or you can sign with him.

    Vizcarra, born deaf and believed to be one of only a few deaf wrestlers in the state, has used that positive outlook on life to become King’s top wrestler. He’s also managed to become an inspiration to many in the Milwaukee City Conference and others who have seen him wrestle.

    You can see his supporters in the stands in the City when they use the deaf clapping sign with open hands shaking back and forth held above their heads.

Vizcarra just has that vibe and vision of life that doesn’t allow for self-pity in spite of his lack of hearing, said his coach Doug Glasenapp.

    “Nothing ever keeps him down,” said Glasenapp recently at the school. “He just gets up and keeps coming back for more. We’re going to have a tough time replacing him after the season.”

    Vizcarra started wrestling as a freshman after seeing the King wrestling team practice.

“I had never seen it before except for the (pro wrestling) on TV,” Vizcarra said through his interpreter the past three years, Carissa Geurden. “I decided to try it.”

    He has been wrestling ever since, and improving with his dedication to learning and an ability to overcome adversity. He was voted a captain as a junior and senior and won the most valuable wrestler award at King last year and will again this year.

Glasenapp has a good reason to admire his wrestler’s efforts. Vizcarra is a tireless worker and always attentive.

“We were coming home on the bus one time and I told one of my kids that Edgar was the best listener on the team,” Glasenapp recalled. “The kid said, ‘But, coach, Edgar is deaf.’ If I tell Edgar something, he does it. He doesn’t have to be told twice.”

Vizcarra’s reasons for enjoying the sport and advice for his teammates are simple. The sport was easier to pick up and participate in than a team sport where constant verbal communication can limit a deaf athlete.

“(Wrestling) helped me to have a better attitude,” he said. “I tell them not to give up and to keep going and have fun. That’s important. It’s important to have fun.”

Vizcarra posted an 8-10 record as a freshman but rebounded to go 28-17 as a sophomore and 29-16 a year ago.

This year, Vizcarra, a 145-pounder, became the first 100-match winner in Glasenapp’s seven years at the school and enters the Wisconsin Lutheran Regional at 10 a.m. Saturday with a 36-5 record with 20 pins. 

Vizcarra will take a career record of 101-48 into the regional with 51 pins. The two-time City Conference runner-up has advanced to the sectional level each of the past two years, but never moved beyond.

Former King wrestlers Eric Ivy, now in the Marines, and Beau Plath, the school’s last state qualifier in 1999, have been working with Vizcarra, who expects to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology next year.

Throughout, Vizcarra has kept that positive attitude even when the outcome wasn’t what he wanted. Of course, there have also been some unfortunate incidents along the way.

A deaf wrestler must be tapped prior to all stoppages by a referee and given hand signals – normally from Geurden - to start wrestling. A few coaches and wrestlers haven’t always been cooperative or understanding, according to Geurden, who is Vizcarra’s ears and Glasenapp’s voice on the edge of the mat.

“I take it all in and explain it to Edgar,” Geurden said. “For me, I have to make sure he’s getting a fair match.”

As Vizcarra’s interpreter, she must have clear sight lines and an ability to communicate any instruction that Glasenapp is trying to relay to his wrestler.

Geurden, new to the sport two years ago, remembers an incident where an opposing coach claimed the sign language was an illegal form of communication. Then there are the incidents where the opposing coaches, wrestlers or in very rare instances a referee forgets that Vizcarra is deaf.

 “For me as a professional, I know it is really frustrating,” said Geurden. “There have been some comments made. But most of the time, it’s fine. He has a lot of fans. Everyone really enjoys talking to him. Refs, coaches, even opponents. He’s very sociable.”

That was the case when a young girl approached Vizcarra and began signing with him at a recent tournament. A deaf man who wrestled 20 years ago, according to Geurden, attended the Oshkosh West tournament this year to watch Vizcarra.

Glasenapp isn’t worried about whether Vizcarra makes it to state this year, knowing it will be tough. He’s already won, in Glasenapp’s mind.

“He’s just such a hard worker and listener,” he said. “And he never quits.”

This article was first published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel