Roman Ochoa ‘21 epitomizes the power of and.
His profound academic excellence encompasses membership in the National Honor Society and the prestigious St. Thomas Club – elite students with a minimum 4.0-grade point average for seven consecutive semesters
He rose as a National Merit Commended and National Merit Hispanic Scholar.
And a TAPPS state wrestling champion.
And a nationally recognized fine arts performer.
And was accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Sweeping Success with Astounding Significance
While society into the 21st century has come to worship the narrow, the focused, the specialized, Ochoa seized the possibility of vast and integrated purpose. His da Vinci-vision of human wholeness was rooted in comprehending the wide range of ideas in great depth and bringing them together in a way that represents a paradigm for liberal learning.
The launch point for the Renaissance Man was a bold reach to consult with recent St. Thomas legacy graduate Jay Vaughn ‘15. Ochoa was captivated by Vaughn’s rocket ascent through academia and marketplace punctuated by his own array of and – an undefinable fury and undeniable intelligence and unbridled compassion and carefree charisma packaged to influence if not change the world.
“I contacted Jay and he gave me about six paragraphs about St. Thomas and life,” Ochoa says. “He spoke to how my due diligence would start to accrue dividends. I could cherish the relative success and become satisfied or push for ultimate greatness. I could have coasted after those first couple of years but instead, I decided to follow Vaughn’s example and aim for that next level. His advice played a huge part in my motivation. I’m so thankful he shared his insight.”
Ochoa exemplifies a rare combination of ferocity and intensity, dignity and sincerity. Yet the eloquent person of learning, the gifted man of letters found much of his mojo in suffocating wrestling competitions with beads of sweat bubbling above his brow and slaloming down his cheeks,
lifting opponents in the air and slamming them to the mats, making way to take the top step on the podium. In every drill of every practice, Ochoa refused to give in. That’s the work ethic that has fueled his ascent and a resurgent program.
“Wrestling made all the difference for me during my time at St. Thomas. I would have had zero chance of going to West Point without that experience,” Ochoa says. “The physical and mental aspect of the sport is so demanding. It became my foundation. So many days starting with a lift in the weight room, two-hour workouts after class, back home for academics until midnight, back at it week after week with only one goal in mind – be the best. That became my habit. I applied that tenet to every aspect of my life. I’m so grateful for the program and coach (Michael) LeHolm, to lead that team. It had the biggest impact on my life.”
This We’ll Defend
West Point wasn’t on Ochoa’s radar until he attended a recruiting exposition in the suburban outskirts before his junior year. He methodically completed the laborious application process while also creating full scholarship options at the University of Texas and Texas A&M, with a sizable financial incentive package available from Colorado School of the Mines. Because of the heavy pandemic restrictions, Ochoa never physically visited the academy to gauge his comfort zone. He was forced to construct a blind faith by way of YouTube and virtual tours. The clock ticked down to the May 1 commitment deadline when Ochoa sought out a sophomore cadet for direction.
“I had two days to decide the next four-eight years of my life and that phone conversation played an important role,” Ochoa says. “He explained that West Point built men of character, leaders for the army, and that principal hit home to me. Any other four-year destination would provide meaningful education and put me on a path for a career I could enjoy. But that’s all. West Point is grounded in ethos, shaping men in ways universities cannot. I’ve seen the military men, their presence in a room, their drive for something outside of themselves. That’s what I want and I’m as confident in that decision as I’ve ever been.”
Of course, the army obligation carries the potential weight of deployment should crises and conflict occur, be it Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Liberia or wherever the U.S. strategy demands.
“If we go to war, I’ll be out there. It’s the job,” Ochoa says. “I’m aware of that responsibility but I’m not worried or intimidated. Someone has to be out there. I believe I’ll be trained and be able to perform well. And if I have that ability, that’s where I need to be.”
Ochoa’s first up close and personal impression of West Point will be his June 28 reception date. The Renaissance Man leaves in the rearview a legacy of only dominance. His avalanche of college preparatory acclaim was cut by an extraordinarily broad and creative intellect coupled with compassion for community. He also cultivated an identity away from the wrestling rooms that serves a higher design – humble, kind, caring, courageous.
“I realized that I only had a limited amount of time this senior year and I was determined to make the most of what was available,” Ochoa says. “Wrestling was the motivator that translated to rewards in other disciplines. It was a fantastic finish that I’m proud of for so many reasons. But I’m ready for the next phase.”
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.
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