It’s safe to say that Donivan Giangregorio is a round peg who doesn’t fit into any square holes.
It would be easy to see him on the football field or wrestling mat and make assumptions about who he is as a person. But if you looked at his transcript, he could be viewed in a completely different light. And if you were to see him away from the athletic arena and classroom, once again, he takes on a different persona.
Giangregorio, now a Calaveras High School senior, could possibly be the most athletic person walking the Calaveras campus. And, there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most academically gifted students enrolled at the school. But pushing those two things aside, many would say that he’s perhaps one of the goofiest individuals in any social setting.
At the end of the day, Giangregorio marches to the beat of his own drum, and couldn’t be happier with the direction he’s heading and who he is as a person.
“I don’t take myself very seriously,” Giangregorio said. “I’m outgoing, goofy and very friendly. I’m talkative and I like to make jokes.”
At the end of his junior year, Giangregorio helped lead the Calaveras football team to a tri-league championship, was named as the Defensive Player of the Year, won a Mother Lode League championship in wrestling, along with two section titles, and placed at the CIF State Wrestling Championships. And in the classroom, Giangregorio had a 4.30 GPA, which comes as a shock to those who view him as a stereotypical jock.
“I know that people are surprised when they find out my GPA,” Giangregorio said. “My buddies know what my GPA is because they are always talking about it and bragging about it to other people and they say, ‘See this dummy right here? He’s probably got the best grades in this whole room.’ Everyone acts surprised and when I tell them my GPA, their jaws drop.”
A gridiron giant
Heading into his second season on the varsity football team, Giangregorio was moved from the offensive line to fullback. The switch wasn’t an issue for Giangregorio, for as long as he could hit someone in a different color jersey, he was content.
After the first game of the 2019 season, the Calaveras offensive line was riddled with injuries and needed help. First-year head coach Doug Clark went to Giangregorio and asked him how he felt about returning to the trenches. The conversation was a short one.
“Coach Clark asked me, ‘Hey, would you rather play fullback or would you rather be a lineman?’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m here to win games, so put me wherever you need me.’ Where they needed me was on the line, so that’s where I went and I was happy,”
Giangregorio said. With Giangregorio back home on the line, as well as being one of the most dominating linebackers in the league, Calaveras went on to win eight of its next 10 games to clench a share of the Mother Lode League title. Even though it was Calaveras’ first league championship since 2013, Giangregorio would rather not share with any league opponents.
“I’m still not happy with it,” he said. “I’m happy that we were league champs, but I’d rather it just be Calaveras as league champs, not Calaveras-Sonora-Amador league champs. I think we could have done better this season and we could have beaten Sonora and that just means we have to do it next year.”
After defeating Western Sierra 56-13 in the opening round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs, No. 6 Calaveras was looking forward to taking on No. 3 Ripon Christian, but that game never happened. Calaveras was forced to forfeit because of an ineligible player taking part in the win over Western Sierra.
Giangregorio and his teammates were given the news midway through a Tuesday practice and less than an hour after learning his section championship dreams were over, he traded his football cleats for wrestling shoes.
“I was really emotional, so I decided to head up to the wrestling room and take on my friends,” Giangregorio said about his football season and wrestling season ending and beginning on the same day. “I love my friends, but I wanted to get a little bit of anger out. I wasn’t going to hurt them; I just wanted to beat them. I figured that I wasn’t going to win (on the football field) this week, so I might as well go and win in the wrestling room and feel better about myself.”
From San Andreas to state
With his football season coming to an unceremonious end, Giangregorio made the quick change to the wrestling team. Heading into his junior season, Giangregorio had a number of goals he looked to complete and there was just one he was unable to reach.
Giangregorio hoped to break the record for takedowns in a season, which is 163 and held by Justin Brown, who is viewed by many as one of the best Calaveras wrestlers ever. Giangregorio recorded 106 takedowns, which was 58 shy of breaking the record. “I had a lot of forfeits this year,” Giangregorio said.
“Every year (Coach Ryan) Upchurch wants someone to break that record and he felt that last year was going to be my year. Unfortunately, I had a lot of byes and forfeits, so I didn’t get a lot of matches. If I get matches this year, hopefully I can beat it.”
Not breaking Brown’s takedown record is the one thing Giangregorio was unable to accomplish in an otherwise terrific season. His wrestling season didn’t come to an end until the state championships, where he placed seventh in the 195-pound division. At the time, Giangregorio was excited by medaling at the biggest tournament in the state, but as time passed, he began to be less than thrilled with his performance at the end of the three-day event.
“My goal was to place at state and when I found out I placed, I didn’t wrestle that well,” Giangregorio said. “And honestly, I think I could have beaten the next dude I wrestled and I could have finished top five. At first, I was perfectly fine with how I did. Over time, I started thinking about how I wrestled and I watched how I wrestled and I realized that I didn’t wrestle that well after I placed. I’ve been dwelling on it recently, only to get myself better and win state. I’m a little disappointed in my placing, so next year, I’m just going to win it.”
With everything surrounding COVID-19, the future of high school sports is in jeopardy. Calaveras is set to begin football practice July 27, but the CIF will make a decision as to whether or not there will be a fall sports season on July 20.
Giangregorio isn’t just going to sit back and wait to be told what the future holds. He organized team football practices that take place twice a week that are run by only players. Hoping that there’ll be a season to be played, Giangregorio wants his team to be ready to hit the ground running.
“A few kids were like, ‘Hey, I wanna get going and I want to start playing football,’” Giangregorio said. “So, I talked to coach (Clark) and he said that it was a great idea and I also think it’s a good thing. Blue banners don’t win themselves. We started earlier than everyone else, so we have a good chance to win that blue banner.”
Aside from practicing with the football team twice a week, Giangregorio stays in wrestling shape by hitting the mats five days a week. He uses the memories of both winning and losing to motivate himself for his final year at Calaveras.
“The thing about losing, every time you lose you are still getting better,” Giangregorio said. “You lose, you figure out what you did wrong and you improve. When you win, you see what you did right and that helps you out.”
Regardless of what he does on the field or mat, Giangregorio knows his future will be decided in the classroom. And just like his successes in athletics, he’s looking to have another outstanding year academically.
“I need the grades for college,” Giangregorio said. “That’s my biggest goal. I want to be an orthopedic surgeon, so I need to go to a top-notch school and get a really good biology degree to go to medical school."