Sometimes, things work out.
Sometimes, you set a goal, work hard to achieve it and it happens.
No one believes that more these days than Lafayette High senior wrestler Rodrigo Diaz after signing a national letter of intent Wednesday to continue his career with the Missouri Tigers.
“It’s a dream come true,” Diaz said. “I always wanted to have a chance to be a part of a program like this, but I never really thought it would amount to this. I’m elated. I still can’t believe they took this kid from Louisiana.”
Diaz’s delight and amazement is well-founded. In the world of elite Division I wrestling, Louisiana doesn’t even approach the level of being a hotbed for recruiting that it is for sports like football, baseball and basketball.
It’s the kind of signing that’s big for the entire wrestling community in the Acadiana area and throughout the state.
“You don’t see that very often,” Teurlings Catholic coach Kent Masson said. “The last one was David Bonin from Comeaux to Northern Iowa. For Rodrigo to sign with a program like Missouri that is top 5 or top 10 almost every year is just huge.”
Lafayette High coach Brandon Billeaud said he’s thrilled to see Diaz get this opportunity.
“He’s getting a great opportunity,” Billeaud said. “I’ve gotten to know (Missouri) Coach (Brian) Smith. He’s a great guy. We’re about family in our program at Lafayette High and that’s exactly how Coach Smith runs his program at Missouri.
“This is fulfilling, but it’s not personal, it’s for the entire team. The other guys on our team have been next to that guy for the last three and a half years. They’re all apart of that as well. Rodrigo is such a good teammate. He’s not selfish at all.”
Diaz’s example is certainly one for his teammates to emulate, no matter what their goals are.
As the story goes, Smith came down to work a summer camp at Teurlings Catholic in 2014. Masson had brought a large group of his Rebel wrestler to Smith’s camp at Missouri and developed a relationship on that trip.
During his visit to Lafayette, Smith spotted Diaz. The two met and Diaz’s interest in Missouri’s program was sparked.
First, he wrote letters to every coach on Missouri’s staff and asked what he needed to do to garner a scholarship offer. The message was to attend Missouri’s summer camp this past summer.
The problem was the money. Already involved in football, wrestling and track and field, Diaz’s parents told him he had to get a job and pay his own way.
“They wanted to see if it was something I was really serious about, so I had to pay for it myself,” Diaz said. “So I got a job.”
Now Diaz admits, “That made it so much more fulfilling.”
Not only did Diaz attend Missouri’s camp, but earned the ‘Hardest Worker’ distinction and caught Smith’s eye once again.
“When I first saw Rodrigo, I saw this big guy who was always working hard,” Smith said in a university news release on Missouri’s signing class. “Then he came to one of our training camps and worked even harder. His work ethic is what impressed me. We are excited to get a big guy with a great training mentality.”
Billeaud wasn’t surprised by how well Diaz fared in Missouri this past summer.
“Rodrigo just loves the sport, and he has a great work ethic,” he said.
“I think Coach Smith just sees all of this untapped potential from a kid who wants to work and is willing to accept coaching,” Masson said.
Even after everything he went through to impress Missouri’s staff, Diaz didn’t expect it to work.
“It’s crazy,” Diaz said. “It still doesn’t seem real. When I was at the camp, I didn’t even think they were paying attention to me. I was just a kid from Louisiana.”
Diaz didn’t begin wrestling until his freshman year at Lafayette High. In three years, he’s got a 128-34 record, placing second and third at state.
“Now that I’ve signed, I can focus on leading my team this year and go all-out to try to win the state championship,” he said.
Missouri plans on using Diaz as a heavyweight after red-shirting. Diaz said the goal is to get in the 260-pound range.
“That’s definitely doable,” said Diaz, who said he’ll relish the four seasons in Missouri, loving everything from snow to the heat. “I’m pretty tall, I love to work out and I love eating.”