It didn’t always come easy to Noah Mirelez; Tuesday was a day years in the making. The Patterson High senior student-athlete publicly announced his commitment to attend Oregon State University on April 30, completing a long journey that began when he was in fifth grade.
“I just definitely feel the support from the town right now,” senior Noah Mirelez said after his signing ceremony. “I’m beyond proud. The moment we got the letter of intent mailed to us I was ecstatic.”
Mirelez will leave in his wake a superlative wrestling legacy at Patterson High. The three-time CIF State Championship qualifier was the first in school history to do so. As a junior, Mirelez helped lead the Tigers to Western Athletic Conference and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III tournament titles. As he leaves Patterson High for a broader horizon at Oregon State, he leaves behind a roadmap for others to follow. Although the end of his time as a student athlete at Patterson High is near, it is his beginnings that helped forge his way to this point.
“We hope his leadership in the sport can carry future wrestlers,” wrestling coach Gene Guerrero said of Noah during the signing ceremony.
Signing to Oregon State was a dream come true for Mirelez.
“Oregon State was perfect for everything I was looking for,” Mirelez said. “I really liked the wrestling team and the coach (Jim Zalesky), and it’s a beautiful campus. I definitely see myself fitting in there. My freshman year (of high school), my parents actually picked Oregon State as my goal college to wrestle, so it’s crazy.”
Although wrestling is a big part of the Mirelez family, that wasn’t always the case for Noah.
“There is a strong tradition of wrestling in our extended family, but that was almost like a fabled ancestral story,” Noah’s parents Ruben and Danielle Mirelez said via email. “Noah didn’t grow up around it. His cousins and uncles all finished wrestling by the time he became interested in the sport.”
From the onset of Noah’s foray into wrestling, he had to prove himself. At first, his talent in the sport was not necessarily apparent. His parents shared that some coaches even said he lacked “it” and was not deemed “athletically gifted” at a young age. It took time for Noah to win his first match, and it wasn’t until a year in that Noah received a first-place finish. Despite a lack of results during the early period of his adoption of the sport, Noah persevered and kept pushing himself.
“When he started to challenge himself by wanting to wrestle multiple brackets and age groups, wrestling through injuries, pulling multiple practices a day and driving three and a half hours away twice a week for practices... that was probably when he really stood out that he had a special knack for the sport,” Ruben and Danielle Mirelez said. “Really it’s a process and a grind and you are always evaluating yourself as a coach/parent and him as an athlete and second guessing or self-doubting... every competition affects your perspective.”
Fast forward a decade’s worth of hard work, and Noah is now poised to retire as a Tiger and become an Oregon State Beaver. The Oregon State wrestling program was established in 1909 and is a Division I program.
According to school staff on hand, this will also be the first for the Patterson High wrestling program to have a grappler leave straight for a Division I school.
“I am extremely proud of Noah. He’s a great young man and has worked and continues to work hard to accomplish his goals. I’m super excited that Noah has chosen to continue to wrestle, and to wrestle for a D-1 school like OU is even better. I wish him nothing but luck. OU’s program is getting a great young man. Noah works hard on and off the mat, striving for more, and truly loves the sport. He will fit in great,” Patterson High head coach Artie Rivera said via email.
The Beavers are coached by Jim Zalesky, who was hired in 2006 and has put together a 139-69-2 dual meet record during his tenure. Oregon State has tallied seven Pac-12 Championships during that time.
The program has produced 12 All-Americans under Zalesky.
Zalesky himself was a four-time All-American wrestler during his time at Iowa, and a three-time National Champion at 158 pounds. Zalesky was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004, meaning Noah will join a program that has plenty of pedigree backing it.
Noah’s family couldn’t be prouder.
“The very most important thing we want for him is for him to be happy and live life fully so he can look back and be satisfied with the outcome. He has sacrificed so much for these goals, so I never want him to feel it wasn’t worth it,” his parents said via email. “It is scary to see him stretch those wings! He is really challenging himself by doing a premed major, a competitive military program, D-1 wrestling and trying to balance all that, so while we are proud and want him to continue to set those high goals, it’s really hard to let go and let him do it himself, because we have always been a big part of his activities.”