MANILA –After winning the Philippines' only gold medal at the Southeast Asian Championships held from December 16-18 at the Phumin Phnom Penh University in Cambodia, wrestler Alvin Lobreguito is setting his sights on another golden performance in the 2023 SEA Games.
Lobreguito bagged the men's freestyle 57kg championship after earning the highest points in the round-robin competition. He beat Thailand's Nattawut Kaewkhuanchum (10-0), Vietnam's Khac Huy Phung (11-3) and Cambodia's Sophors Soeun (10-0) but lost to Indonesia's Zainal Abidin, 3-4.
"Masaya ako kasi hindi ko expected na mananalo ako. Lahat ng nakalaban ko magagaling. Nag-focus lang ako sa kung ano ang dapat kong gawin (I am happy because I did not expect to win. All my opponents were very good. I just focused on what I need to do)," said the airman first class in the Philippine Air Force in an interview on Friday.
In his 11-year career as an athlete, Lobreguito earned a bronze medal at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. He also has three SEA Games medals under his belt – two silvers (2019 Manila and 2022 Vietnam) and one bronze (2013 Myanmar).
The 30-year-old Lobreguito was born and raised in Bagong Silanganan, Quezon City. The youngest among three siblings was a college sophomore taking up entrepreneurial management at the Quezon City Polytechnic University in Batasan when he decided to quit.
"Tumigil ako ng pag-aaral para makapag-concentrate sa wrestling (I stopped schooling so I can concentrate on wrestling)," shared Lobreguito, who started training at the age of 14 under the supervision of former national playing coach Violeto Agustin, a second cousin from his father's side.
"My goal is to win the gold medal in the 2023 Cambodia SEA Games. It is achievable with proper training and exposure," said Lobreguito, who is busy preparing for his wedding in January next year.
Aside from one gold, the Philippines also pocketed five silver and bronze medals in the Cambodia tournament which served as preparation for next year's SEA Games.
Ronil Tubog (men's freestyle 61kg), Michael Vijay Cater (men's Greco Roman 55kg), Jason Baucas (men's Greco Roman 72kg), Jiah Pingot (women's freestyle 50kg) and Mariane Mariano (women's freestyle 59kg) bagged the silver medals while Jhonny Morte (men's freestyle 65kg), Jeferson Calingayan (men's freestyle 70kg), Margarito Angana Jr. (men's Greco-Roman 60kg) and Maribel Angana (women's freestyle 55kg) secured the bronze medals.
Noel Norada (men's Greco Roman 63kg), Joefer Callado (men's Greco Roman 57kg), Jefferson Manatad (men's Greco Roman 87kg), Neonards Cervantes (men's Freestyle 79kg), Aliah Rose Gavalez (women's Freestyle 55kg) and Rea Grace Cervantes (women's Freestyle 57kg) missed the podium.
Aside from Lobreguito, Morte, Tubog, and Pingot and Margarito Angana Jr. were also Vietnam SEAG medalists.
Meanwhile, Vietnam, who ruled wrestling when it hosted the SEAG last May, topped the medal tally board with 18 golds, 11 silvers and one bronze.
Indonesia was second with six golds, nine silvers and three bronzes followed by Cambodia (3-3-13), Philippines (1-5-5), Thailand (1-2-6) and Singapore (1-0-2). Laos failed to win any medals.
Cambodia's three-gold performance in the pre-SEAG showed its determination to win more medals in the tournament proper slated May 5 to 17.
Last June, the Cambodian wrestlers grabbed three golds, three silvers and one bronze at the Thailand Wrestling and Beach Wrestling Championships.
The big improvement can be credited to Iranian Komeil Ghasemi, the 2012 London Olympics freestyle 120kg gold medalist who has been training the Cambodian wrestlers since 2021. (PNA)