Elyle Francisco is about to enter his senior year at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School. But first he’s got a big trip planned for later this summer.
He’ll compete at the U17 Greco-Roman World Championships in Rome from July 25-31, and he’ll fly out of Alaska on Thursday.
“I’ve been training hard, harder than anyone,” Francisco said. “I’m here to represent Alaska and Team USA.”
The Team Alaska wrestling program is coming off a historic performance and turnout at Kids Nationals, and Francisco is the first member of the club to make it to the world championships. While Francisco doesn’t feel any added pressure, he wants to set a good example for the next generation and give them something to aspire to if they dedicate themselves to their craft like he has.
“I feel like I’m carrying all the hopes and dreams of all of them, representing all of Alaska, and I’m happy to represent them and show them what it’s like,” Francisco said.
Francisco was elated when he found out that he made the Team USA Worlds roster back in April after finishing first in his weight class at the World Team Trials in Las Vegas.
He will be wrestling in the 112-pound weight class. It’s the same weight he wrestled at during his junior year of high school, when he capped off an undefeated season with a state championship and a record of 32-0.
“I knew I was going into the World Team Trials, but it didn’t really set in until after I won,” Francisco said.
The experience felt like a dream to him at the time, and he’s been grinding on the mat ever since.
“I feel so happy because I’m one of the best in the U.S., but the job is not done,” Francisco said. “I still got to go out there, beat the other kids that are better in the world and make a statement.”
He quite literally hasn’t been taking days off, training seven days a week — and usually twice a day.
Depending on what state he is competing in, Francisco said he’ll get up as early as 8:30 a.m. to train for two hours and then have another session in the afternoon.
After qualifying for the U17 World Championships, he received an opportunity to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and took full advantage of the experience.
“I got to meet some of the best of the best, train with the best of the best, and I feel like I made my point going there and showing them what I’m like and that I’m ready,” Francisco said.
He is out to prove that Alaska, despite its small population, is home to some of the best athletes in the sport of wrestling.
“We’re going to show them that no matter if you’re from a small town, that we’re still training hard and trying to be the best,” Francisco said.
He has been wrestling as a member of Team Alaska since he was in the first grade and was hooked on the sport after notching his first win on the mat.
“My parents just put me in for fun and self-defense, but after that first win, I started liking it,” Francisco said. “I like winning and I just stuck to it.”
Wrestling is a family affair in the Francisco household. The 17-year-old is the oldest of six siblings and trains with his younger brother, who also has aspirations of becoming a champion wrestler.
“He tags along, practicing with me, and is going to be great one day,” Francisco said.
His ultimate goal in the sport of wrestling is make the U.S. Olympic Team and compete for gold medals.