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Leslie Monterrosa '24 decided to come to Elmira College after a surprising phone call from Cody Griswold, the head coach of Men's and Women's Wrestling. She hadn't been planning to go to college, but his persistence and the college's ability to meet her needs won her over.
"If you ask any of the girls on the team why they are here, they will say, 'coach,'" she said.
Monterrosa is from Gardina, California, just outside of Los Angeles. Raised by a single mother and one of five siblings, she spent part of her young life living between Gardina and Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, near Mexico City. She was born with progressive hearing loss, but that went undiscovered until she was in sixth grade. She somehow passed the school hearing tests. Then, her mother became frustrated when Monterrosa kept saying she didn't hear her mother's calls. She went for proper testing. The tests showed that her hearing would degrade over time and she expects to be fully deaf in her 40s.
Monterrosa has hearing aids, but she primarily reads lips. Despite her hearing issues, Monterrosa wanted to serve in the National Guard and, with finances being tight for her family, planned to do that instead of college. At least, that was the plan until Griswold explained she could still join the National Guard through Elmira College and major in the two fields that would set her up for the career of her dreams – an FBI agent.
Griswold couldn't be happier to have convinced her to take the Elmira College path. In her, he has found a wealth of determination and an ability to connect with the other team members in a way that has shaped the group into a team. That's why he asked her to be captain.
Monterrosa stays busy with plenty of other activities aside from her duties as wrestling captain. She works in the Gannett-Tripp Library, is a resident assistant (RA) and tutor for American Sign Language, Spanish and English. She's also the founder and president of the Sharing a Smile club that provides basic necessities like toiletries for the homeless.
"Leslie is fast to reach out to new students and help them feel welcomed and at home," Griswold said.
Monterrosa has been sure to help students from warmer climates understand how cold an Elmira winter can get so they can bring the proper winter-weather gear. When she first arrived on campus, she just had a duffle with clothes. Her shoe selection was limited to sneakers, and light hoodies were her only jackets.
After some snowy weather and wet, squeaky shoes, Monterrosa invested in boots.
Monterrosa wants the team members know she is there to help them through moments of doubt and to work through the times when they might want to hop on a plane and go home.
"I'm family-oriented and I experienced my own homesickness," she said. "You have to know why you are here and what you are doing it for."
For Monterrosa, it’s for her mother. Someday she wants to be able to buy her mother a house, so she pushes to succeed in her coursework as well as on the wrestling mat.