SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A local wrestler raised in Springfield will be competing for a spot on Puerto Rico’s national team. Meet Jon Viruet, who has begun his journey to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in France.
“You have to give hell to everybody that you compete against, no matter what form of competition, you have to make it hell for your opponent,” said Viruet.
Before becoming an Olympic wrestler, Viruet was just like a lot of other Puerto Rican kids growing up in the heart of Springfield. He had dreams of becoming a professional athlete. At the age of 12, Viruet and his older brother went to his local wrestling gym hoping to find an outlet.
“We showed up with jeans on our first day, and we never looked back, it’s been a runway since then. We kind of just jumped on board and took it for what it was,” said Viruet.
Viruet’s father inspired him to pursue the sport. He was always a fierce competitor, channeling all of his energy into the task at hand.
The trajectory of his life shifted within his first few years of wrestling. He spent time out with friends to perfect his craft. In no time, those in his inner circle started to see the potential that wrestling had for Viruet’s future.
“As I mentioned, Annibal had seen something in me and always wanted me to pursue this goal. I always dismissed it, ‘You’re not talking to me, I’m not that good.’ To finally be here is definitely kind of surreal,” said Viruet.
His dream of becoming a professional athlete would lead him to the biggest arena in the world to perform as an Olympic athlete. Becoming an Olympian is no easy task. It takes years of dedication, discipline, and sacrifice to become an athlete of this caliber. Viruet’s commitment to his art is what propels him towards Olympic glory.
“I’m going to compete, and I’m going to win. Second place isn’t an option. If you’re not first you’re last. I’ve let my competitive nature live by that standpoint, as goofy as it sounds. I’m going to try my hardest to win first place,” Viruet said.
Over the last 14 years, he’s gone above and beyond. He is a four-time Western Mass Champion, three-time State and All-State Champion, as well as a National Champion. Now it’s his chance to represent not only the city of Springfield but his island of Puerto Rico on an Olympic stage.
“I’m here to do a job and I have all this support behind me, whether I win or lose. In terms of calming down whatever nerves or butterflies I would experience and also allowing me to be thankful in my prayer and focusing on the moment and what the task is,” said Viruet.
He was among four wrestlers who competed for the position against the three other wrestlers in Puerto Rico’s invitation-only match in September where he emerged victorious. Viruet is very proud of his culture, saying that no one goes as hard for their people as Puerto Ricans do.
“I’m trying to pave the way, and I’m trying to make a name for the island and for my community. I don’t want it to be Jon Viruet, I want it to be like, ‘Alright, here’s the path, here’s what’s happening moving forward,'” said Viruet.
He will represent Puerto Rico in the upcoming Pan American Games in Chili from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5. He has no plans to slow down. Viruet will be training in Colorado and his ultimate goal is to bring back gold and stand up there on that podium with the Puerto Rican flag raised up high.