By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor
Former President Ronald Reagan had a famous quote about the United States Marine Corps that seems fitting when thinking about legendary Northview High School wrestling coach David Ochoa.
Reagan said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world, but the Marines don’t have that problem.”
And while the 30-year icon of the sport of high school wrestling has plenty of life ahead of him, Mr. Ochoa can rest assured that he’s made a difference in thousands of lives.
If anyone doubts that statement, wait until you get to the bottom of the story and read the testimonials from his peers, athletes, their parents and even rivals.
Ochoa, along with Bobby Bellamy, and their staff, has set the gold standard for San Gabriel Valley wrestling programs, not to mention earning the status of being a state power over the past three decades.
And the reason for that is based on both the success and the longevity in which the Northview program has thrived.
On his watch, the program has won 24 Valle Vista League championships.
The Vikings haven’t lost a league dual in 22 years.
Northview has 11 CIF-SS team dual championships, along with 13 CIF-SS Individual championships.
They are a four-time CIF-SS Master (team) champion.
Northview was also the 2001 Small School California State champs.
Six years ago, Northview earned the honor of being the 2013 CIF All-Academic champions.
They’ve had scores of CIF-SS Individual and Masters champs.
And Northview boasts three individual boys state title holders, as well as six more on the girls side. .
Chris Lopez, Shad Manigault and Frank Martinez all claimed their sport’s biggest prize.
Tatiana Padilla (four times), Angelina Gomez (twice), Vanessa Butanda, Sabrina Solis and Brazel Marquez have all reached the highest mountain their sport has to climb.
And of all the accolades Ochoa has earned, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being ahead of the curve.
He was one of the first to start a feeder program, which allows kids the chance to develop their skills on the mat, and to do so well before they begin attending high school.
In many ways, it gives those athletes a chance to start a couple steps ahead of those that take up the sport once they step foot on a high school campus.
When boys wrestling got all the attention, Ochoa was pushing for the girls to get a chance to compete in a sport that has shaped so many lives for the better.
In fact, while others were at what was considered the more premier event (prestigious boys tournaments) Dave Ochoa was with the girls to make sure they had the same support the boys program enjoyed and benefited from.
For all his success, all the lives he’s impacted and for being a father figure to so many student-athletes, the 59-year old Ochoa was inducted into the 2019 National Wrestling Hall of Fame tonight in Laguna Hills.
I’ve told this story before, but way back in the day, when I worked for an area news publication, I got sent out to La Quinta to cover Northview, and almost felt the sports editor at the time was punishing me by having to drive an hour and a half to cover a sport I knew nothing about.
It didn’t take long, however, to change my tune, because of David Ochoa, Bobby Bellamy and so many of their athletes and their athlete’s parents, I grew into a huge proponent of the sport and the people inside the wrestling community.
As a former baseball player in high school and college and a football player in high school, I thought the three big sports (football, basketball and baseball) were all that mattered.
Once I began to understand the ins and outs of wrestling, I have from that day believed without any doubt that wrestling has the most disciplined, respectful and appreciative athletes.
You can not be a thug, you can not be undisciplined or a ‘me’ guy or gal instead of a ‘we’ guy or girl and succeed in this sport.
Because of coaches like David Ochoa, Bobby Bellamy, Donnie and Shirley Stephens (West Covina), Robb Froh (South Hills), Omar Delgado (St. John Bosco), Tim Brogden (Warren), Monico Enriquez (Glenn), Frank Soto (Norwalk), Don Wakefield (Paramount), Ibee Atalla (Mayfair), Miguel Soto (Downey) and Marshall Thompson at Millikan, I have been blessed enough to witness and proud to publish the very real impact they make in these young people’s lives.
So many wrestlers from programs throughout the state and nation, including a long list of Northview athletes, has, to this day, gone from being immature boys when they started to responsible and respectful husbands and fathers after their wrestling days were long over.
And much of that guidance, and path clearing came from their wrestling coaches and the road one must travel in a sport that takes every ounce of skill, heart, blood, sweat and tears to be successful, let alone a champion.
In a way, the Northview program is like the New York Yankees of baseball, the Patriots of football or the Duke of college basketball.
Northview gets every opponent’s best shot and many like to see them stumble from time to time, with that animus based mostly on the success and swagger those programs represent.
But just like Duke, the Patriots and Yankees, Northview in a winner, and they do not allow their athletes to be any less successful in the classroom or in public than they are on the mat.
Ochoa and Bellamy and their staff of dedicated coaches hold their wrestlers accountable and will never allow for any of them to disrespect or stain the good name of their school, their program or the sport.
These days, Ochoa also holds the title of Northview High School athletic director.
But of all his titles and responsibilities, the two that matter most are those of father and husband.
Dave’s wife of 25 years, Nancy, who is also a teacher, is someone, who, without question is the backbone of the Ochoa family.
Without her sacrifices in so many ways, including the remarkable job she and her husband did raising sons David, Eric and Aaron, and daughter Valerie, tonight’s honor of a lifetime would have never been possible.
Ochoa’s children are intelligent, respectful, goal-orientated and solid human beings, and it is the surest measuring stick of how good and loving Dave and Nancy Ochoa are as parents.
This is a well-deserved honor for a leader, a coach, a mentor, a father, a friend and a man who has given everything he has to both the kids and the sport of wrestling.
A true sign of what impact a coach or program has on their athletes is to see how many come back after they graduate to contribute when they can.
And Northview pride is at every tournament you could possibly go to, and that was all started by Ochoa and Bellamy, and continues to this day.
On behalf of everyone lucky enough to call David Ochoa friend, coach or dad, congratulations, Dave, the entire wrestling community is overjoyed that your life of work and your passion has so rightfully been recognized at the highest level tonight.
And lastly, as a sign of his humility and appreciation, Ochoa said it’s his wife Nancy and not himself who should be getting the honor tonight in Orange County.
Longtime Northview coach Bobby Bellamy: “Coach Ochoa has been an unbelieveable mentor. His leadership and guidance has had a profound effect on my life. I will continue to try to emulate what he embodies and hopefully I can pass on to others what he’s given me. I am immensely grateful and blessed to have him in my life. Thanks, Coach.”
Former Northview wrestler and son, Eric Ochoa: “My Dad is the hardest working man I have ever met. His love and passion for both the sport of wrestling and the enrichment of students lives is unmatched. When you have people coming up to you at events constantly telling you things like ‘I wouldn’t be alive if your Dad hadn’t put me in wrestling’ or “Your dad changed my life,’ it makes it so easy to admire and look up to him. But even as my coach, he never wanted anything but my best. Since I was young, he told me before every match, ‘just try your best, okay?’ So when it came time for my high school career, that was what I did. And that’s what he always does. He pushes kids to do things they never thought they could, whether it be Jesse Cruz getting pinned by a girl in his first match and then becoming a state medalist, or Shad Manigault pinning his way to a state championship. But his favorite accomplishment is watching someone who never wanted or had an inkling that they could, get into college. And not only get in, but sign scholarships to go to school. It is this pressing on of trying to become better men and women that my dad truly strives for. He teaches us as wrestlers to respect our coaches and to believe in ourselves. And above all else, he lives by the code that hard work + dedication = success. And though he is a very humble man and won’t say much about himself, we all know Northview and the sport of wrestling wouldn’t be the same without him.”
Northview 2000 state champion, Chris Lopez: “I first met Coach Ochoa when I was 13 years old, and what he’s done for me and my family since then goes beyond any words. This man has helped shaped me into the father, coach and person I am today. He has always been there with the right things to say at the right time. His knowledge and selflessness is contagious and sets the tone for the program he has built over the past two-plus decades. I will forever be in debt to that man and what he’s done for me.”
Northview 2006 state champion, Shad Manigault: “David Ochoa helped me when I was at a very pivotal point in my life and helped guide me along the right path. His influence at the very young age of 12 has inspired me to always strive to be the best version of myself that I can be. He always made it very known that there was no limit to greatness and through hard word and dedication, anything is attainable. I will always treasure the time that we spent and continue to use his values as I continue to grow as a man and a father.”
Four-time state placer/Vanguard coach, Caleb Flores: “He is the definition of leading by example. His work ethic is second to none. He spent countless hours investing into young people’s lives. It doesn’t matter if it was his best wrestler or worst, his investment in each person was the same. He has truly impacted so many lives by being the great man and great leader that he is.”
Northview parent, Jesse Cruz Senior, father of Jesse Cruz: “We are thankful for Coach Ochoa’s willingness to support kids that do not have a wrestling background and helping them develop their skills on a highly competitive team. Jesse did not realize he had what it took to be on the team, but because of Coach Ochoa and his staff, they were able to help him “believe” and not only grow on the mat but also as a young man. His confidence took a leap and we watched a little boy become a young man. The Northview wrestling family played a large role in that development. I used to joke with Jesse and tell him to ask his Daddy Ochoa if he wanted to do something or go somewhere. Jesse definitely knew that he had a home with Northview and the California Grapplers. After Jesse’s tragic and sudden passing, David rallied around our family and has always made sure to let us know that we are part of a large extended family. Jesse’s faith in God was no secret and seeing the JC with a cross on the wrestling gear is a testament to what Jesse meant to the program. We are forever grateful to him for allowing Jesse’s legacy to continue and making new wrestlers aware of our son and the legacy he built through the sport of wrestling.”
Northview senior Gabriel Cortez: “I’ve known Coach Ochoa my entire life and he’s been like a second father to me. He’s helped me out so much that I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him. He dedicated his life for his team and he truly loves all us wrestlers.”
Former Rancho Cucamonga coach & father of Caleb Flores, Elias Flores: “Dave would always say that “you never get what you deserve, only what you take.” Dave taught Caleb the value of integrity between coach and the athlete. He also taught Caleb the value of hard work and reward, and that success is not accidental, but intentional. I have nothing but love, honor and respect for David Ochoa. You always remember two people in life, those that were kind and those that were cruel. David has been kind since the day I met him in 1977.”
Former Northview/current South Hills baseball coach Darren Murphy: “Dave Ochoa is on the Mount Rushmore of best high school coaches ever in the San Gabriel Valley. Put the winning aside, your head would spin if you knew what he’s done for student-athletes on a personal level.”
Former West Covina High & Duke University wrestler, AJ Guardado: “I love Coach Ochoa. I respect everything about him. That man would drive from where he lived I believe in Ontario or Upland and pick up kids on the way to school. He would have food in his class for kids to eat during lunch, he would always cheer for me and open up his room to me as long as I wasn’t wrestling one of his wrestlers. He is nothing but class and that program is lucky to have him. I still remember when I placed in state and (Northview’s) Steven De La Fuente had just finished wrestling on the mat next to me and he and Bobby Bellamy hugged me and told me how happy they were for me. He’s the coach every wrestler should want in their corner.”
Former South Hills state champion and American University wrestler, Thomas Williams: “I knew that every time I wrestled one of Coach Ochoa’s guys, I was in for a dog fight. Of all the great things about his legacy, I am most impressed with how many kids he got to graduate from college, which in many cases was the first time anyone in that family had accomplished that. Even though I was a rival and competitor, he was always kind and willing to help in any way that he could. He improves lives on and off the mat.”
Cerritos College coach and fellow 2019 HOF inductee, Donny Garriott: “Dave and I started head coaching at the same time. He is a great guy, who has done so much for the Northview program and that community.”
Former West Covina co-coach with her husband Donnie, Shirley Stephens: “Coach Ochoa is often called the “godfather” of Southern California wrestling. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who is involved in wrestling that hasn’t had the benefit of his wisdom and guidance at one time or another. He loves his kids like his own and always goes above and beyond not only to help them succeed on the mat, but in life.”
Former South Hills/current Bonita coach Robb Froh: “It’s impossible to talk about wrestling in the San Gabriel Valley or even the Southern Section without talking about Coach Ochoa and the Northview program. For those of us that really know Dave, we know the success he’s had on the mat is secondary to what he’s done for the kids in his program. He’s given many kids that might not have a whole lot else going for them, a place to belong and find success. He has truly created a Northview wrestling family.”
Former Northview athlete, current booster president, David Bonilla: “Congrats to one of the goat’s (greatest of all-time), and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. This guy will give you the shirt off his back to help you out. I am lucky to know you coach. I love you, Coach Ochoa. This is a well-deserved honor, and we’re all so proud of you and thankful for all you’ve done for this school, program and the sport.”
Northview senior Jason Valencia: “I want to thank Coach Ochoa for everything. I would not be in the position I am right now if it wasn’t for him, the ultimate coach.”
Northview senior David Barela: “Coach Ochoa and his staff have impacted my life with nothing but positive effects. They have always had my back, treated me like family and even helped give me an opportunity to progress in life after high school, and into college. I can’t thank them (all the coaches) enough for pushing me to be the person I am today, and always having my back through thick and thin.”
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