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The Antelope

Josh Portillo wrestles, coaches with heart during career

JOSH PORTILLO / UNK WRESTLING Josh Portillo has posted a 15-5 record this year heading into Regionals.

As his sixth and final year of collegiate wrestling comes to an end, Josh Portillo is once again preparing for the NCAA Super Regionals. Portillo has had much success at UNK as a three-time All-American and 2019 National runner-up at 125 pounds. 

Before he came to UNK, Portillo spent his first year at South Dakota State to try and chase his Division I dreams. 

“Turns out when I got there the coaches weren’t necessarily what they seemed,” Portillo said. “I ended up wanting to leave, and even when I left I was recruited by a lot of Division I schools, and it came down to five Division I schools and a Division II school. I almost made the same mistake, but every time I told myself to not go for it again and follow my heart. My heart’s always been at UNK.” 

Going Division II gave Portillo the opportunity to do something earlier this year for the first time since middle school. He wrestled his twin brother, Justin, who wrestles for Grand View in a dual earlier this season. 

“We’ve both had very storied careers,” Portillo said. “We’ve been wrestling since we were four and both of our careers are finally coming to an end. It’s awesome that we did get to end up facing off one-on-one against each other.” 

Josh defeated Justin in overtime of the match with a two-point sudden victory. It ended up being Justin’s last dual match this year due to injury, but he came back down the final stretch for some tournaments. 

“He’s an extremely tough opponent and I’m glad I could get the win over him,” Portillo said. “It’s something we’ve always kind of wanted officially, and I’m glad we got to get it done.” 

Not only do the Portillo brothers know how to wrestle, but they also coach young wrestlers from all around the country. As an All-American, Portillo gets lots of offers to teach children how to wrestle. 

“I just started getting asked by a lot of people to do camps,” Portillo said. “My brother and I are a bit of a package deal when we do camps. We work great together, and we have a passion for coaching.” 

This teaching journey led Portillo to 13 different states in the past two years. He has taught young wrestlers anywhere from their first year of wrestling to high-level high school students.  

Portillo is a health & physical education K-12 major with minors in media productions and coaching. He is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree, and his dream is to coach at the college level.  

“I know how impactful a good coach can be,” Portillo said. “I want to be that person in somebody’s life. I want to be that person that gets somebody motivated and helps them chase their dreams.” 

UNK came up just short of a National Championship last year losing to St. Cloud State by half a point. With the season winding down, Portillo is ready for one last go at a championship to end his career. 

“I’ve always kind of feared the end of my career and it’s been scary, but I’m finally coming to terms with it,” Portillo said. “I think that’s a great thing because I’m going down swinging. I’m going to give it my all and leave no regrets.” 

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