Centauri’s Chavez makes long journey to awards stand

Centauri High School’s Aundre Chavez, far right, advanced to the Class 3A 120-pound state tournament podium for a sixth-place finish after battling leukemia for three years. Also pictured, from left, Gunnison’s Cody Casebolt, Abraham Lincoln’s Jordan Romero, Mullen’s Dale O’Blia, Severance’s Jonathan Morrison, La Junta’s Jordan Gamez and Chavez (Courtesy photo).

LA JARA — For Centauri High School senior wrestler Aundre Chavez, the past few years have been an interesting journey.

Chavez was considered an elite athlete during his seventh-grade year at Centauri Middle School. However, he was diagnosed with leukemia and missed the next three years of competition.

But Chavez recovered from the blood cancer and made it all the way to the awards stand at the past week’s CHSAA state wrestling tournament.

“It’s been tough,” Chavez said. “It’s been a lot of work and time trying to get back into the sport.”

Chavez was a three-sport athlete prior to his diagnosis and was looking forward to competing in high school.

“I was a three-sport athlete — cross country, wrestling and baseball,” Chavez said. “I was doing really well and did well at the state tournament for the middle school. Then everything just kind of changed.”

He learned of the frightening diagnosis while heading to a practice session.

“I was on my way to wrestling practice when they told me to get to the E.R.,” Chavez said. “I spent eighth grade through my sophomore year recovering.”

Chavez went through a variety of treatments for his leukemia.

“I did normal chemotherapy to start with and that didn’t work,” Chavez said. “Then when I moved to Colorado Springs Children’s Hospital, they got me on a trial for therapy in Philadelphia. So, I did some time there and that worked and then I got a bone marrow transplant.”

Chavez returned to competitive wrestling for his junior year. He started the season on the junior varsity team but worked his way onto the varsity.

“I started off on junior varsity my junior year and had to win some wrestle-offs to make it to the varsity team,” Chavez said.

He had a successful postseason as he did well at the regional tournament, taking second place, and made it to the state tournament. However, he was eliminated during that year’s state tournament.

This year, he was determined to place at the state tournament.

“That was my goal to make it to the podium this year,” he said.

Chavez accomplished that goal as he finished in sixth place in the Class 3A 120-pound weight class.

“I wrestled my seed and made it to the podium,” Chavez said.

However, he missed wrestling in the fifth-place match against Gunnison’s Cody Casebolt as he was injured in his previous match.

“My last match, my neck was kinked, and I was not physically and emotionally not ready to be prepared for it,” Chavez said. “That match would have been against an opponent I had already lost to, so it would have been nice to beat him.”

Chavez is hoping that he can continue his wrestling career at the collegiate level.

“I’m going to see if I can get some wrestling scholarships and go to school and continue wrestling,” Chavez said. “I’ve been looking around.”

Chavez said he is in remission but still has some medical appointments to keep.

“I just go once a year for check-ups and that’s it,” he said.

He said he would like to continue in wrestling after he completes his education.

“After college, I will start working, maybe become a wrestling coach like my dad, Joe,” Chavez said. “I’m optimistic for the future.”

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