Carmel wrestling family signs to victory!


The 9-year-old wrestler was born deaf, and says that won’t stop his career.

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CARMEL, Ind. - On the wrestling mat, it's loud!

The wrestlers' grunts echo, the wrestling shoes slide, and the elbows pound into the mat.

It's a lot of noise, some of which is tuned out by athletes, but RJ Villalobos only hears silence. The 9-year-old can't hear.

"My dad he helps me, signs because I'm deaf I can't hear," the third-grader explained to FOX 59's Beairshelle Edmé through an interpreter.

His dad, Rene cant hear either, and he's also no stranger to wrestling.

"So from second grade from then on my cousins, my neighbors, my relatives-- we all wrestled together growing up," the father described through an interpreter when talking about his own start with the sport.

At this point, wrestling becomes a family sport. Not only does RJ wrestle, but so his younger siblings, who are also deaf.

"It's the dream," said mom, Araceli Ulloa. "I always dreamed that my husband would be able to teach and coach with my children - that's always been the dream."

Mom and dad are active on the sidelines, except, in this case, the Carmel coaches want them helping!

"Dad learns from the coaches and teaches me and I learn and do it over and over and over again until I'm confident with it," the young wrestler explained.

"The phrase that his dad says often is, 'We don't put him to a different standard because he's deaf. He still has to figure it out,'" recalled Coach Ed Pendoski, who leads the Carmel USA Wrestling Club.

For 3 years, Pendoski has been training RJ, and he says his approach in coaching him is no different.

Coach tells Edmé his goal is to build a relationship and train the third grader to be the best!

"RJ's the toughest guy in the room, and the first practice he ever saw was the one he was in," the coach said. "He didn't know what was going to happen, nobody knew how to communicate with him Day 1, and to watch the excitement that he comes to the room... it's a breath of fresh air to everybody!"

The 9-year-old tells FOX59 this is just the beginning!

"I win some, lose some," he said!

The big win he wants is a state championship and even heading to the Olympics for wrestling.

His dad tells him he can do it all!

"Go ahead! Play! It doesn't matter! Hearing, deaf, you're the same, any disability - it's all the same," he said.

And RJ says he's got plenty of inspiration, like wrestlers Dan Gable, an Olympic gold medalist and national champion in wrestling and Hulk Hogan, his WWE favorite!

You can watch WWE on FOX 59, Friday nights at 8 p.m.

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