Finding the time to keep honor roll grades at any college is arguably a full time job. Maintaining a 3.67 while also maintaining your status as the sixth best wrestler in the state is next to impossible.
This is exactly what Cuestaâ€™s own Geoffrey Merker was able to accomplish. Every year, 10 of the nearly 26,000 community college student athletes in the state are chosen to be honored with the Scholar Athlete Award. This is one of the most prestigious awards given by the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA). Eighteen Cuesta students have earned this to dateâ€”six of which have been awarded in the last six years.
Merker was a decorated wrestler during his two years as a Cuesta wrestler. He placed sixth in state last year. He also earned a 3.67 overall GPA while majoring in Kinesiology during his time at Cuesta.
â€œI had no life outside of school and wrestling,â€ Merker said. He attributes his successâ€”on and off the matâ€”to his never-quit attitude and his strong work ethic.
Merker did not wrestle in high school. Instead he was a ski racer, and a pretty good one. After he graduated high school, Merker went to Sierra College for one year, during which he joined the Marine Corps. While serving a five year stint in the Marines, Merker started to explore other sports.
â€œI went the MMA route in my free time, but then I really got into wrestling,â€ Merker said.Â
Merker was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2011 for six months. When he returned home, he wrestled in Twentynine Palms, a small town in South San Bernardino County. Merker continued to train with a former Marine who had also wrestled in community college after learning how to wrestle in the corps.Â
â€œHe worked out with me and got me to where I was. I got out of the Marines and just focused on wrestling,â€ Merker said. â€œIt was a lot of work to get to that level because I didnâ€™t wrestle in high school.â€
After receiving multiple opportunities to further his wrestling career, Merker was set to wrestle for Boise State last fall. Unfortunately, tension with the coaching staff prevented him from ever seeing the mat. â€œI liked it a lot up there, but it just didnâ€™t work out,â€ Merker said. â€œThe coaches blew me off … It was terrible.â€
Without a solid backup plan, Merker came back to Cuesta to work on his academics and to help coach the Cuesta wrestling team. Merker said that while coaching is rewarding and entertaining, itâ€™s also more difficult in other aspects. â€œI would much rather wrestle â€¦ actually competing is more enjoyable,â€ Merker said.Â
Because Merker had committed to Boise State for the 2015 wrestling season, he lost one year of NCAA eligibility. â€œIf I could [wrestle] for two more years I would do it, but not for just one. Itâ€™s not worth the headache,â€ Merker said. â€œItâ€™s frustrating, because I could have wrestled, but I didnâ€™t have a backup plan. I was set at Boise.â€Â
With his wrestling career on hold, Merker intends to pursue his bachelorâ€™s degree from a four year university with the hopes of becoming a physical therapist. He applied to Montana State, Fresno State, and Cal Polyâ€”with Cal Poly being his first choice. â€œNo matter what, Iâ€™m going somewhere,â€ Merker said.
Merker will be honored at the CCCAA Celebration of Student Athletes Luncheon on Wednesday Apr. 1 in Ontario, Calif. at the Doubletree by Hilton. He wonâ€™t be aloneâ€”Merker will be joined by the Cuesta Menâ€™s Basketball, Womenâ€™s Swim & Dive, and Womenâ€™s Track & Field teams who are also receiving awards at the luncheon.