Wrestler keeps the faith

For the Mirror

Yura Malamura is a national champion.

The Highline Community College grappler became the first Thunderbird to win a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) title in the long and storied history of the program.

Malamura chomped through a 32-man, 197-pound bracket featuring the top wrestlers in the nation last month in Rochester, Minn. He beat Jared Shelton of Labette Community College (Parsons, Kan.) in the national championship match. Malamura finished the season with an impressive 34-5 record.

“Yura can go to any college in the country,” said Scott Norton, Highline’s head wrestling coach. “He has several Division-I programs pursuing him, including Minnesota in the Big-10. He’s done a phenomenal job.”

Malamura isn’t your average athlete who trains hard to see satisfying results. He adds a special element to his formula of success — prayer. He says that faith in God gave him faith in himself. The former 215-pound Class 4A state champ from Spanaway Lake High School came to Highline last fall after taking a year off from wrestling.

Following his prep career in the South Puget Sound League South Division, Malamura participated in Generation Interns ministry training in Kirkland.

But, during that time, he felt it would be best for him to attend a regular college and get back to wrestling.

“I felt like God was calling me back to school,” said Malamura, who hopes to become a minister some day. “I could also use wrestling as a ministry.”

Malamura has brought more than a national title to Highline’s wrestling team this year. His faith has brought an extra something special to the mat, which has contributed to a lot of success by his fellow Thunderbird wrestlers and brought a family aura to the team.

“We have more conversations and care for one another,” said 141-pounder Jason Mendez from Central Kitsap.

Malamura wasn’t always trying to spread brotherhood and faith.

“I wasn’t always like this,” said Malamura, a 2003 high school graduate and a freshman at Highline. “In school, I was always getting in trouble and getting suspended.”

Malamura has overcome his past and worked toward a clean present and a better future. Upon completion of his associate of arts degree at Highline, Malamura plans to transfer to a university where he will major in theology or communications.

During the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) regional finals, held February 12 at Highline, Malamura won the 197-pound title. But that wasn’t enough.

“A lot of people came up to me after the regionals and said that they hoped that I was at least an All-American,” said Malamura. “That day I came home and had to make a decision.”

Malamura had to decide whether he was striving toward being an All-American or becoming national champion.  

“I made a list of the things that I needed to do in order to become national champion,” said Malamura. “I was already eating right and running three miles a day, disciplining myself.”

The list worked to perfection and Malamura now has the NJCAA national title to prove it.

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