The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Photo credit: Nick Shockey / nshockey.express@gmail.com
A letter from the editor
February 6, 2024

City College wrestler slips hold of his past

City College wrestler Isaac Pilgrim wins an early match at the KLS Air Express Invitational at North Gym on Sept. 19th. Photos by Dianne Rose
City College wrestler Isaac Pilgrim wins an early match at the KLS Air Express Invitational at North Gym on Sept. 19th. Photos by Dianne Rose

When a wrestler goes out onto the mat, it’s him or her against a single opponent. But as many City College wrestlers will say, the Panthers are more than that. The camaraderie between the athletes makes them like a family of brothers, and it’s that unity that appealed to one of the Panthers top wrestlers.

Between trying to fit in with new teammates at City College and trying to survive in a new city, Isaac Pilgrim, a 23-year-old out of Fresno, California, had a tumultuous first year in Sacramento.

“To be honest, there were some times where he was pissing some people off,” Pacheco said. “It’s like sometimes he had these demons in him that he just holds on to. But he’s worked on it.”

Pilgrim spent the majority of his life in the foster care system searching for some stability. At 4 years old, he was taken away from his biological parents, two people whose names he doesn’t even know.

“I think my biological parents were addicted to drugs,” Pilgrim said. “I remember them getting taken away, and that’s pretty much the last thing I remember.”

He moved into a foster home with a woman he says took him in for the money. During the next 10 years, Pilgrim tried distancing himself from her. Once he got to high school, he began to sleep at his friends’ houses, and when he felt like he was overstaying his welcome, he says he even slept overnight in local parks.

It wasn’t until his sophomore year in high school that he found a home with a new family. Pilgrim met his best friend Brandon Wright when the two wrestled together. Before they became friends, Wright said he only knew Pilgrim through mutual friends at school.

“Honestly, when I first met him, I thought he was a [jerk],” Wright said jokingly. “But when I got to know him, I could tell he would do anything for his friends. He was like a big brother.”

According to Wright, his parents, Billy and Lashandra Wright, always treated their children’s friends as family, no matter how long they’d known them. So once his parents found out that Pilgrim didn’t have anywhere to stay, they welcomed him into their home.
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“People always ask me, ‘Do you ever want to search for your biological parents?’ and I always say no every time,” Pilgrim said. “In the basically five years that [Billy and Lashandra] had me, they taught me so much that I needed to learn growing up. They never shunned me away, they never turned their backs on me, and they’ve always supported me as much as they could, even though I wasn’t necessarily theirs.”

 

After graduating high school, Pilgrim went back out on his own, moving to the Bay Area to wrestle at Santa Rosa Junior College. He spent one semester there, but he couldn’t afford Bay Area rent. In 2012, he decided to join the Marines because he said he knew that they’d pay him.

He served for two years, doing a six month tour in South Korea, but he later realized that, too, wasn’t for him. After two years in the Marines, Pilgrim reached out to City College wrestling coach David Pacheco about competing for the Panthers.

“As I got out of the military, I realized that I wanted to continue wrestling, and I always remembered the camaraderie and the coaching staff [at City College],” Pilgrim said. “I wanted to be a part of, not just a wrestling community, but a wrestling family. That’s pretty much what led me to come to Sac City.”

When he came here, Pilgrim said he paid two months up front for a unit at Public Storage in Downtown Sacramento. He worked a few jobs on campus, went to practice, and then slept in the storage unit. On top of that, Pilgrim said he was the new guy on the wrestling team who didn’t click with anyone and always stayed to himself.

“I’ve seen a big turnaround since last fall when he first started working out with us,” Pacheco said.
Pilgrim later moved out of the storage unit and, according to Pacheco, began staying with one of his teammates.

Since that year, Pilgrim, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the state at 133 pounds, said that he’s clicked with his teammates and has even found a brotherhood in the City College wrestling program.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of a great team,” Pilgrim said. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of something like the program coach [David] Pacheco and coach [Walter Ulrich] built here. I’d say I’ve found what I wanted.”

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