Israel Acosta: A life of wrestling

Pullman High School freshman wrestler Israel Acosta dominated in year one


Courtesy of Angel Acosta

Israel Acosta pinning an oppenent.

LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor

In just his freshman season in high school, Israel Acosta was a district champion and, along with his brother Ivan, took second place in the state tournament. 

While that seems like an enormous feat for a freshman, Acosta is not your ordinary wide-eyed first-year; he is a seasoned veteran.

Acosta has been wrestling since he was 3 years old. He has three older brothers and wanted to do everything they did, which was wrestling. That is what led him to compete in some of the toughest tournaments across the country.

“Always being the little brother, I always had to be pushed a little harder to keep up with them [his brothers],” Acosta said. “In this high school season, it was Ivan who was my training partner every single day.” 

Israel and Ivan have a special bond. They are each other’s biggest supporters and only want to see each other succeed. Ivan and Israel have been scrapping with each other in their rooms since the ages of four and five, Ivan said to the Spokesman-Review.

Israel and Ivan are so close that there might even be some concern for when Ivan graduates following next season, said Pullman head coach Marcus Crossler.

“They’re buddies off the mat,” Crossler said. “Having that tight of brotherhood and friendship with your own sibling is really cool to see. I know that when his brother graduates next year he’s definitely going to be missed. We’re gonna need to find another hardcore practice partner for him.”

Israel is a four-season wrestler. He has not played any other sports throughout his life. When he is not wrestling for Pullman, he does club wrestling, whether it be traditional folkstyle, freestyle or Greco-Roman.

It was at a young age that he really gained a true passion for the sport, mostly through his own competitiveness.

“Ever since I was in elementary school I was always the most competitive kid ever. And so getting into a sport, yeah I loved wrestling, but I loved winning mostly,” Acosta said.

Courtesy of Angel Acosta
Israel Acosta getting ready to compete.

Acosta has been on big stages before the state tournament this season. Just last year he placed at 15U Nationals and was a double All-American. He has won state a few times with his club teams. 

The Pullman wrestlers also went to some of the toughest tournaments in the country this year in the regular season like Gutcheck in Kent and the Tri-State tourney in Couer d’Alene, Idaho Crossler said.

Acosta also attends wrestling clinics and camps in the summer as well, including national team camps. He will also be going to the national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota this summer.

With all this on Acosta’s plate, he said the biggest thing before his matches is keeping himself calm.

“Whether that’s listening to slower music before my match or stretching out and having a talk with a coach, I try to be calm and not let my nerves get to me,” Acosta said.

He’s very laid back and always lighthearted, which is nice to have in the wrestling room, but once he’s on the mat, he flips a switch and is ready to go, Crossler said. 

Even with all the success, Acosta said he needs to focus on wrestling every match the same.

“I get in my own head and it’s just getting over that, like almost having to tell yourself like, ‘you’re good enough to be here,’ getting over all the nerves, emotions everything,” Acosta said.

Because of his lanky stature, Acosta’s favorite move is the sweep single, he said. 

Crossler said a lot of guys, even upperclassmen, look up to him and his non-traditional style of wrestling.

“He probably has the best hip movement I’ve ever seen on a wrestler, his position and body position is just uncanny, not even as a freshman but overall. I’ve had a couple of wrestlers that have gone on to the college level and he far and away surpasses the kid that went D-1 at Brown University that we had five years ago,” Crossler said. 

Courtesy of Angel Acosta
Israel Acosta walking across the mat.

Acosta achieved greatness on the mat, but his biggest improvement this year was in the classroom, he said.

“I definitely feel like as a student outside the wrestling room I felt like I was always trying to get good grades and always try to be at the top of my class,” Acosta said.

His big brother Ivan is his biggest inspiration having been there to push him in the room every day. But outside the family, Israel looks up to four-time national champion wrestler Yianni Diakamaholous from Cornell. 

The goal for Acosta beyond this year is to be an All-American again at the 16U division and ultimately wrestle in college one day. 

His message to any incoming freshmen.

“Stay consistent, don’t skip practices, don’t talk yourself out of workouts, always show up, always be there. Having that confidence and trust in your work is what I always do in these matches. I go out there and I know how hard I work and I trust that I work hard and so I feel I can always rely on my mentality to get through these matches,” Acosta said.

Acosta has been through a lot and has done a lot in his wrestling career. He and his coach are confident the next step is a state championship. 

“He came out of this season very hungry, looking for that state title next year and he has nowhere to go but up,” Crossler said. “I have no doubt in my mind that there will be no drop-off.”