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Anthony Montalvo is using pain from his past to chase his wrestling dreams

The redshirt junior is thriving in his new environment at ASU after suffering a season-ending knee injury at Oklahoma State


“The big reason why I came to ASU is I know a lot of these guys prior, and then I'm developing relationships,” Anthony Montalvo said. “I feel like they truly care about my well-being and my mental health.”

From enduring physical and mental abuse to suffering eye-opening injuries, no circumstance can keep redshirt junior Anthony Montalvo from chasing his dreams. After transferring to Tempe in the summer, Montalvo is ready to be the wrestler he knows he was destined to be.

Montalvo comes from a big family and had a childhood many people could not dream of. He has a family with a history of drug abuse and crime, and was forced to grow up in a two-bed, one-bath apartment with 10 people, seven of which were his siblings. 

A multitude of things forced Montalvo to grow up at age 8 — his parents' divorce, his mother hooked on drugs, his brother in jail for murder, and his teen sister pregnant with her first child. He found solace in wrestling and sought out the sport as a means to change his path. 

After moving to Clovis, California, Montalvo put his entire mind and soul into the sport and became the No. 4 ranked wrestler in the state as a freshman, starting what would be a dominant high school career. 

"A lot of guys in California usually start at a young age, so my dad showed me early, just kind of the basic stuff, how to have fun and love the sport," Montalvo said. "I always thought that it was a way out from where I was and where I could get an education."

Montalvo earned a record of 184-16 at Buchanan High School and won California state high school titles back-to-back in 2017-18, garnering attention from colleges across the nation. His dream of being the first in his family to attend college became a reality when he committed to Oklahoma State University. 

"It was definitely a culture shock, in the beginning, being a guy from the West Coast going to the Midwest, it's kind of a different feel," Montalvo said. "It was a different speed of life, and I was living on my own for the first time. I had no family in Oklahoma, so just becoming my own man was a big transition."

Montalvo burst onto the collegiate scene compiling a 44-10 record in four seasons in Stillwater. During his time in Oklahoma, he won two ranked matches. In 2020, he was a Big-12 bronze medalist and was awarded second-team NWCA All-American honors. 

Combined toughness and heart, the West Coast kid was making an impact on the mat and in the classroom. Little did he know that everything would change the following summer. 

Wrestling is a violent sport that asks competitors to use power, skill and agility to pin opponents to the floor. In these violent exchanges, injuries happen. Montalvo battled knee problems during the 2019-20 season despite his success. These problems caught up to the young star during summer training, leading to a torn ACL.

"That was one of my weakest points going from an All-American to two years of watching practices is a big jump, and it's something that people don't look into or dive into," Montalvo said. "It's hard on the brain, and it's hard on the body and on the mind and soul."

The sport that kept him out of trouble and provided him with an education was taken away in a heartbeat and resulted in the toughest two years of Montalvo's life. 

He realized a need to be close to family and friends and sought change. 

"The big reason why I came to ASU is I know a lot of these guys prior, and then I'm developing relationships," Montalvo said. "I feel like they truly care about my well-being and my mental health."

He had previously fostered relationships with redshirt freshman Richard Figueroa, redshirt sophomore Kyle Parco and sophomore Jesse Vasquez and saw Tempe as a place he could thrive mentally and physically. 

"I think our team does a great job of being tough but also understanding each other, being friends to each other, and being kind to each other," said volunteer assistant coach Eric Thompson. "When problems mentally or physically arise, they have a lot of ears that they can turn to and people that they can talk to."

Coming out of high school, Montalvo was recruited by coach Zeke Jones and had the opportunity to wrestle as a Sun Devil from the jump. Montalvo visited ASU after OSU and credits the pressure of being a big-time recruit to his quick commitment to the Cowboys.

"Looking back on it, I was young, and that's a lot of pressure to put on kids, going through the recruiting process and everything," Montalvo said. "So I kind of just wanted the situation to be over with, and I found an easy out, so that's why I initially picked OSU over ASU."

Despite his decision, Jones said at the time that his door was always open, and if things did not work in Stillwater, Montalvo could always "give me a call."

"We wanted him and needed him, and he wanted to be here," Thompson said.

Jones says he is excited to have Montalvo on the team.

"He had a really good high school wrestling coach in Troy Tirapelle," Jones said. "Tirapelle is a tough, hard-nosed coach; all his kids are very disciplined and tough. Anthony epitomizes that tough high school style of wrestling, and he's just a beast."

Montalvo competed for the first time in a maroon and gold singlet in the intrasquad scrimmage earlier this month. He defeated freshman Jacob Meissner 8-4 in what was a tightly contested matchup until the third period. 

"I feel at home being on the West Coast again," Montalvo said. "Just being around guys that I already know is the place where I belong and everything happens for a reason."

After a two-year hiatus, Montalvo is back and ready to help the Sun Devils capture their sixth Pac-12 title in seven years. He will look to apply for an injury redshirt, giving him two more years of eligibility. 

He will lace up the singlet once again on Nov. 12 against Rutgers and on Nov. 13-14 in the Journeymen/Defense Soap Classic.

Edited by Kathryn Field, David Rodish, Grace Copperthite and Piper Hansen.

Reach the reporter at and follow @AAYU5H16 on Twitter.

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Aayush Gupta

sports reporter

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