Torivio GallegosInterMat has profiled other wrestlers who have returned to college wrestling beyond the typical age -- to finish up their eligibility, or because they had been serving in the military. Gallegos' story is much different, as he had been battling an opioid addiction ... and sees signing with Eastern Oregon as a key element to overcoming these challenges and put his life back on track.
We wanted to check in with Gallegos to see how he's doing as a college student nearly a decade older than most of his classmates and wrestling teammates.
We started our conversation by asking Gallegos to describe the school he now calls home.
"Eastern Oregon is a major part of Le Grande," Gallegos continued. "It's a college town with lots of theater, music -- and lots of student-athletes. About 2,600 students overall. You see so much energy, confidence."
"I think adjusting to a new environment was extremely challenging," Gallegos admitted to InterMat early in our most recent interview. "I wanted to get involved in everything."
While Gallegos may not have gotten involved in "everything," he certainly is active in his first year at Eastern Oregon. He has three business classes -- all in the morning -- followed by wrestling practice from 4-6 p.m. If that weren't enough, Gallegos is host of the radio show "Motivational Monday" ... and was elected to Eastern Oregon student government as a senator.
More about all that later. Let's start with the issue most of you came for -- wrestling.
"My first couple weeks on campus was preseason prep ... My first Sunday was the toughest. I'm getting ready for church. Coach (Dustyn Azure) called -- told me I needed to come to a meeting where he starts talking about expectations. Said we'd be going on a seven-mile mountain run."
"I started praying on the run. I was towards the end of the pack. Made it to the top, and felt the mental switch that helped me realize I could achieve anything. I had to take in all the changes. A desire to put myself out there. As I long as I believe I can do something, I'll be OK."
"My beliefs and faith are critical to my success here. I have to have a lot of faith in myself."
With that said, Gallegos feels he has become a part of the team.
"I've become part of a brotherhood with my teammates -- doing the work, getting encouragement."
"It's a very diverse team -- different ages, where they wrestled ... It's like 'The Sandlot' with lots of different guys, all having fun, all working hard. So much fire, so much energy."
"Mentally, it's tough. Physically, it's tough. But wrestlers are a tough breed. You have go all out every day. But, being here has really amplified my love of the sport."
Gallegos gets elected to student government ...
How did Torivio Gallegos decide to run for student government?
"One of my greatest fears was not being accepted. Concerns that folks might be reluctant to say something because of who I am."
"I decided to try to put aside some of those concerns (of fitting in). Running for student government, for instance. Even though I'm 27, I don't want to think I'm that different."
Gallegos won election to the student senate, and now participates in weekly meetings.
"It's eye-opening to learn the cultural issues on campus," he told InterMat. "The incredible diversity of the students."
… and finds his place on the radio
As mentioned earlier, Gallegos is the host of the weekly "Motivational Monday" program on the Eastern Oregon radio station ... "a totally new experience for me."
"Monday's my busiest day," Gallegos chuckles.
"I put on music that makes people feel good, especially on Mondays."
"I also plan to do interviews with student-athletes to help them express the multiple dimensions of their lives," Gallegos added. "I love to get to know people."
Of course, in addition to wrestling, radio and student government ... there is the academic side of life for Torivio Gallegos at Eastern Oregon.
"I really enjoy my classes. It's challenging to learn business fundamentals, yet fun to learn about how to be creative in the business world -- how to recruit the right people, and help motivate them."
"I'm so excited to be here," Gallegos added. "I'm definitely focused on doing my best in every aspect of my life here."
As if all this weren't enough ...
Torivio Gallegos leads a very full life on campus at Eastern Oregon University, what with wrestling, classes, his radio show, and involvement in student government.
And he has a full, rich life away from school, as a husband ... and, come spring, as a first-time father.
"The due date is April 24."
"(My wife) Keri has always hoped to be a mom," Gallegos told InterMat. "I thought I might die before becoming a father. I'll admit; it was hard at first for me to wrap my head around it."
"Seeing the first sonogram blew me away. It's really helping propel my life in every way."
"I hope to inspire my children with the direction my life is now taking. When I started to do the right thing, my life really started to come together. I can now do things I never thought I could do."
"Dreams do indeed come true."