Northview’s Marcus Tolentino Will Attend United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York; Vikings’ Lightweight Excels on Mat & in Classroom

Apr 30 2024 04:14:56


By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor

It gets repetitive to say.

But it doesn’t make it any less true.

Of all the sports this writer has covered over the last 25 years, in my view, none has produced more quality young men and women than wrestling.

It all begins with the discipline it takes to be successful, let alone make weight every week.

In some sports, having elite athletic skills can override a lack of discipline or other personal flaws.

To be successful in wrestling, and just as important, to be an asset to a program, one must be disciplined, dedicated, selfless and possess a character to persevere in the most demanding sport in high school athletics.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of being a wrestler and going through the grind is that most of their athletes take those character traits learned and formed on the mat into their personal lives, the classroom, and it helps prepare them for life, as well as being a husband, wife and a parent.

It’s no secret that Northview has set the bar for success over the last three decades or so in the San Gabriel Valley area.

I’ve gotten to know dozens of their skilled and character-driven athletes over the years, and if I had to pick a wrestler that I admired the most, it would probably be 2007 NHS grad, Steven De La Fuente.

But there’s a 2024 soon-to-be Northview graduate named Marcus Tolentino that is on that De La Fuente level in that they’re not very big, they’ve had to persevere through significant injuries and they’re all about ‘we’ and not ‘I.’

Tolentino wrestled all four years as the Vikings’ lightweight, and it goes without saying that it took an insane dedication and discipline to maintain a 106-pound body weight.

I have repeatedly described wrestling as the most difficult sport to endure throughout a season.

And that’s because even athletes that compete in some of the most taxing (physically and mentally) activities like cross country, swimming, water polo and track can go out to dinner after an event and have a burger, fries and a shake.

But wrestlers can’t.

Often times, they come home from day one of an all-day tournament and they have to watch their caloric intake and go for a run just to make weight for the next day.

Tolentino did that for the last four years, and surprisingly, because of his discipline, it was only a struggle during his senior campaign to make weight.

Marcus is a guy that RT, Cristine and Madison call son and brother, respectively.

His boys over at NHS proudly call him a brother and a loyal teammate.

Tolentino is everything wrestling is and should be about.

He’s a hard-working, humble, respectful and an appreciative young man.

He busts his ass just as hard in the classroom as he does on the mat.

Tolentino has a 3.7 GPA, and it’s because of his success on and off the mat, as well as his character, that, this fall, he’ll be attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

I wanted to share an anecdote that best describes Marcus’ toughness and his character, which took place this past February.

Tolentino grinded his way to runner-up finishes at the CIF-SS Coastal Division Individuals and CIF-SS Masters in spite of tearing his MCL at the mid-January Five Counties Tournament.

His second-place effort at Masters earned Marcus a third consecutive trip to the sport’s biggest stage, the CIF State Championships in Bakersfield.

However, Tolentino’s injury had reached the point where he couldn’t run, which also meant he couldn’t make weight.

He had to accept that he would not be competing in front of thousands nor was he going to stand on the podium that Saturday night with the other state placers at 106 pounds.

It would have been understandable had he decided to stay home.

But that’s not Marcus Tolentino.

He made the 130-mile trip to Bakersfield to root on his Northview family as they competed within the Mechanics Bank Arena.

I got to speak with Tolentino briefly in the media section of the arena, and the heartbreak on his face was evident.

Having said that, there was no one happier when a Vikings’ boy or girl won a match than Marcus.

Over his career, Tolentino went 143-29 for Northview High School, and that included three Valle Vista League individual titles.

He placed third at CIF-SS Individuals during his sophomore year, and then Tolentino finished second in 2022-23 and 2023-24.

He qualified for state three years ago by placing third at Masters, and Marcus was a runner-up his junior and senior seasons.

Tolentino considers his blood-round match and victory over Marina’s Adrian Jimenez during his sophomore year to be the launching pad for a very successful high school career.

Unlike some wrestlers, Tolentino, now 17, said he fell in love with the sport the very first time he walked into a wrestling room at the age of 11.

Marcus will soon graduate from Northview, but his 15-year-old sister Madison just finished her first year in the sport.

And Madison has no bigger fan or better coach than her big brother.

As someone who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in wrestling, the way in which Marcus Tolentino carries himself is a direct credit to the sport, the Northview program and his parents, RT and Cristine Tolentino.

His days at NHS are almost over, but the lessons learned and the love and guidance he received will carry on throughout his lifetime.

And while his prep career didn’t end the way that he wanted or planned, Tolentino has four more years to make memories on the mat at the USMMA.

Lastly, I asked Tolentino to comment on the following: What have Coaches Ochoa and Bellamy meant to your career and life? What will you miss most about being part of that wrestling family? How did the sport help prepare you for life? What has your parents love and support meant to you and what’s something you appreciate most about them? What is a message you want passed on to your wrestling family, how do you hope you’re remembered, and why did you choose to attend the USMMA?

Said Marcus Tolentino: “I would not be where I am today without the support and guidance of Coach Ochoa and Coach Bellamy. They both pushed me to succeed athletically and academically, which has allowed me to compete at the next level. The support system here at Northview is second to none, all the way from my coaches, teachers and even the staff and administrators. They all played a role in my success within the program. The grueling nature of wrestling helped prepare me mentally from wanting to give up but refusing to. It also helped me respond positively to my failures and learn from my mistakes.

These are all things that can be used as tools for success off the mat. There is nothing in this world I love and appreciate more than my parents. They have sacrificed countless hours of their life to help me succeed in mine, and for that, I’m unimaginably grateful. Without their unconditional love and support, I cannot imagine myself in this world today. A trait I inherit and admire from my mom is how passionate she is with everything she does. And from my dad, it’s his hardworking nature that he has instilled in me.

My parents raised my sister and I with old-school fundamentals, including the importance of honesty, hard work, kindness, resilience, respect for others, responsibility, and the value of education and athletics. I would want my teammates and partners to know how much I appreciate them pushing me in the room and my coaches to know how thankful I am for the countless hours they have dedicated to my success.

I hope to be remembered as someone who always had my teammates’ backs, always pushed them to be the best wrestler they could be, someone they could always come up to about anything and overall, just a positive teammate and captain. My interest in attending a military academy stemmed from my discovery of the opportunities provided to me upon graduating from an academy. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to compete at the next level, while simultaneously being provided a very high-level education at no cost.”

To view a photo gallery of Marcus Tolentino, click on the Facebook link here: Facebook


Northview coach, Bobby Bellamy: “I have known Marcus for five years. Marcus Tolentino has shown poise, passion, hard work and leadership on the mat and in the classroom. Over that time, I watched Marcus grow into an outstanding scholar-athlete. He maintained high marks, contributed to the campus culture and he excelled on the mat due to his continual vigilance to his academic prowess and incredible work ethic. It has been an honor and a joy to have coached a student-athlete like Marcus Tolentino.”

Northview legend and Hall of Famer, David Ochoa: “Marcus has proved to be an extremely dedicated student-athlete. He is one of the few individuals who has been able to come into our program and be a starter all four years. For the past four years, Northview has had an excellent 106-pound wrestler. Marcus is an excellent technician, who has been fun to watch over the years. Marcus is quite a young man, who has led by example. He is well respected by his teammates, peers and teachers on campus. We are so proud of Marcus for earning his nomination to the United States Merchant Marine Academy.”

Former Northview wrestler, Nate Cruz: “My time around Marcus was very pleasant. He is a very humble and hard-working kid. Marcus kept to himself, but he was very respectful. No matter what Marcus is doing, he’ll always work hard enough to exceed expectations.”

San Dimas coach, Jim Rodriguez: “Marcus was always 100% focused on wrestling and winning. The kid was stone-cold and brutal on the mat. He’ll do well at the next level.”