Photos by Michael Ramirez
Attending an inspiring speech by former teammate Rudy Guevara (center) were Gonzales High alumni Gene “Wheatie” Tavernetti (left) and John Bustamante (right). Tavernetti and Bustamante were on the Spartan football teams with Guevara, and Bustamante and Guevara were on the wrestling teams.
Below, Guevara displays his Gonzales High ring that he wears proudly after speaking to athletes at the Roger Fernando Gym on Saturday. He was introduced by Spartan head football coach Arthur Berlanga (right).
GONZALES — Overcoming obstacles and pursuing goals have just been something Rudy Guevara has always done. The 1973 Gonzales High graduate and wrestling standout returned to his alma mater on Saturday to offer words of encouragement to Spartan student-athletes at the Roger Fernando Gym just days before the start of the school year.
“Lessons learned in sports will help you as you go to whatever job you do, whether it be a doctor, lawyer or truck driver,” said Guevara. “I live in San Jose but I have always considered Gonzales to be my home because I grew up here and was raised here by my mother (Katie). My mom was very ill but she was an inspirational person and she showed me how to fight for life.”
“When I was a kid I had to wear braces on my legs and mom took care of me until I didn’t need the braces anymore. She encouraged me to participate in sports and I started my sports career playing wiffle ball at Art Brusa’s baseball field at his ranch,” Guevara continued. “Later on I went on to play Little League and baseball because something I loved to play. When I was at middle school I would always be looking through the fence to the high school and couldn’t wait to be able to attend high school and play sports. I would go over and shag baseballs and footballs for the high school players during their practices because I enjoyed being there.”
As a junior high student Guevara was introduced to the sport of wrestling and decided at an early age that wrestling could be a sports that he could excel at. With the Spartans teams fielding successful teams in wrestling and in football, Guevara was excited about what he could be part of as a high school athlete.
“The town shut down every Friday during the football season as everyone was going to go watch the home games,” said Guevara. “I used to look up to the football players running the veer offense that Coach Larry Welsh liked to use. It was an exciting time to be in Gonzales. When I got to high school I played football, wrestling, and baseball. I enjoyed the three sports but wrestling became my favorite. Practice in either sport was what I liked the most because it was the time that we could prepare to become better.”
Landing quality wrestling coaches was never a problem at Gonzales as the program thrived in the late ’60s under Frank Hankin and won title after title under Art Chavez, Mike Nissen, in the early ’70s and later with Ralph Vandro.
“Coach Hankins was my first wrestling coach in high school and when he left for Hartnell College, Art Chavez took over and we kept winning. When Chavez left Gonzales we wrestled for Nissen. Chavez was a champion at San Francisco State and Nissen wrestled in Nebraska and in the NCAA’s.”
“I knew after working with those coaches and with football coaches like Welsh and John Pakish that I wanted to be a coach,” said Guevara. “I worked hard and won a few individual league titles and in my senior a qualified for the State Championship where I played third. I was being recruited by schools like Stanford, UCLA, Bakersfield,, the Air Force, Navy, Cal State Fullerton and San Jose State. I San Jose State because I would be able to be close to home and my mom. I was just 17 years old when I left Gonzales to go to San Jose State.”
At San Jose State Guevara continued to have success on the mats with Pacific Coast Association titles and finishing his career with 106 wins. Guevara worked at San Jose State as an assistant coach and that led to opportunities to coach on U.S. teams all over the world including a trip to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea.
“It was very emotional when I went to Seoul as my father had lost his life in Korea during the Korean Warm,” said Guevara. “Just to be in the same country and where he had last served and lived was very humbling. I am very proud to have been part of that team as a coach and also for being able to coach on four Olympic Festivals.”
Guevara was a teacher and coach at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose from1983-2003 and was also the Head Coach and Director of the San Jose USA Wrestling Club. Guevara was the Head Coach and Director of the California Junior Olympic Team for ten years and was on the National Coaching staff from 1986-2004.
For all of dedication to the wrestling and coaching, Guevara was selected to the San Jose State Hall of Fame in 2015 and received a Lifetime Service to wrestling honor from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in May of 2015.
In addressing the young Gonzales athletes Guevara stressed the importance of giving your best, work hard, and respect the coaches that you have that do so much.
“Here at Gonzales you have coaches that do the best that they can to provide good programs,” said Guevara. “Coach Berlanga is young and is going to be around a long time as a football coach, be supportive of him. Coach Larry (Rodriguez) has worked hard with the wrestling program and has one of the better teams in the area. I’m proud to have gone to Gonzales and don’t know if I would have made it somewhere else. You will soon be the leaders of this country and we need our leaders to be stable and hard workers. Life is demanding so enjoy your time here in high school and the relationships you make with your teammates. I am fortunate to have played with many great athletes and a few of them are here today. Make the most of the time that you have here at Gonzales High and be prepared for when you leave.”