Local 7-year-old phenom makes statement on mat

Talialaina Letoi

Here in the Coachella Valley, when it comes to wrestling, there’s a long line of Mantanonas who have made their name known on the mat. It’s been inspiring to watch for many locals but especially the next generation.

At just seven years old, Nixon Mendoza has reached heights many wrestlers don’t reach in their lifetime

But he keeps it simple when he says, it’s just constant work.

“Just me training here [at CVBJJ], training at home, training in the morning at Category 5 and just training at different gyms.”

He’s making a statement on the mat, not just here in the Valley but around the world.

Nixon was a two-time state champion by the age of 6 years old and one of the top wrestlers in the nation in his weight class. And his parents love watching his growth over the years.

“We’re all so proud. We love traveling with Nixon and taking him to practice — everything we do is as a family with him,” says Clarissa Mendoza, Nixon’s mom.

“I feel like it’s a big part of his journey to just have the support and that’s what he thrives off, having his family there and his friends.”

The success speaks for itself. Nixon is now one of just seven kids in the world to become part of an elite wrestling club.

And to be the best, you have to train with the best. And The best usually find their way inside of Coachella Valley Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Palm Desert.

Anthony Mantanona, who trains at CVBJJ and coaches at Palm Desert High School, has coached and even raised some of the best. He knows what it takes to make it on the mat under the big lights and he says Nixon is just getting started.

“He’s just like the other champions that we’ve had come through here, he works really hard. He’s always the hardest worker in the room. He’s respectful. and he’s got a good support system — his family is very supportive. They’re invested in him just like all the other great ones that come through here.”

Clarissa says the Mantanonas have all had a major impact on Nixon’s growth as well.

“When we started here at CVBJJ, he’s known of the mantanonas for I want to say as long as he’s been wrestling but they really encouraged him and inspired him to be the best he can be, and to travel and do all these different national tournaments that he’s been doing.”

Coach Anthony says at CVBJJ, “it’s a huge support system and the kids all help each other. It’s a big family here and it’s hard not to put in the hard work when everybody else is — it’s really contagious.”

But it takes a village and that’s what Nixon’s got around him.

“It’s about consistency and then willing to go out and put it on the line. It’s not about going and winning all the time, which a lot of them do. It’s about going out and challenging themselves. so a lot of these families they traveled the country looking for the best competition out there to see you know, what they’re striving to catch up to or you know, where they’re trying to get to.”

And Clarissa, a mother of three (soon to be four), add the number one rule is to always have fun.

“Yes, of course he trains really hard. but the main thing is always have fun and make sure you’re loving what you’re doing

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