The Jacob Palomino Story

We have so many amazing people at Smash, so it always feels strange singling out any particular individual. I often have the feeling that I can never repay all those who have helped, so I feel that the least I can do is share with everyone the history and behind-the-scenes workings of some of these great people. One of these people is Jacob Palomino.

Ever since I met Jacob, he made it clear that his top goal has been to share the skills and knowledge he has acquired. The wrestling program at Smash Gym San Jose has become one of the top programs in the area because Jacob and his assistant coaches go way beyond the call of duty.

For example, yesterday, Jacob conducted a free clinic for all local high school wrestlers. After the free two hour practice, he grabbed the 14-year old son of one of our Brazilian Jiu-jitsu coaches who has just begun his first year wrestling in high school. Jacob spent 20-30mins showing him details on the front headlock. Then he played with my 3 year old son, along with his son, and taught them how to get into a wrestling stance and sprawl for another 20 mins after everyone else left.

Free Wrestling Clinic at Smash San Jose

This is not uncommon behavior for Jacob. He is probably the hardest working coach I have ever met, and that’s saying a lot because I know a lot of amazing coaches. A typical day for Jacob may consist of teaching two classes and coach up to 5-6 private lessons. During wrestling season, he brings local high school kids to the 6am strength and conditioning class at Smash San Jose. He is often working at Smash San Jose until 9pm.

As many of you know, Jacob comes from one of the greatest wrestling families in the state of California. When Jacob, his older brother Jason, and his cousin Ricky were in high school their legendary uncles, Anthony and Rick Palomino committed themselves as coaching staff for Independence High School. They created one of the most legendary high school team’s in California history. Under the Palominos, Independence won the California team state title, produced future NCAA champions, and Olympians such as Eric Guerrero. Their technique, work ethic, and heart were incredible to watch in action.

Jacob Palomino as a freshman at Independence

In 1998, Jacob was the youngest of his generation in the Palomino family and made history by becoming the first freshman to become a state champion in California EVER. Typically a 14-15 year old competing against 18-19 year olds would not stand a chance. He proved it was possible and, amazingly, became a 4-time state finalist and 3-time champion.

As if this wasn’t incredible enough, those that were close to him knew his story was even more inspirational than you could possibly imagine. About a month before the State Championships, Jacob’s young and healthy mother suddenly passed away. Jacob was devastated. Most people thought his season was over. Just weeks after this tragedy Jacob stepped into the toughest high school wrestling tournament in the country and did the impossible by becoming the first freshman to win a California State Championship. You can imagine the inspiration that his friends and family drew from that victory. Jacob’s story inspired the wrestling community all over California. He dedicated his historic championship to his mother. At 15 years old Jacob Palomino became a legend.

Jacob was also a teenage father, having had twin babies his Junior year in high school. Either one of these things would have easily derailed someone from achieving excellence. Jacob, through incredible determination somehow continued to march forward and made a history as one of the greatest high school wrestlers ever.

First Freshman State Champ – Jacob Palomino

If you’re not aware of what a California State Championship really means I’ll do my best to explain this amazing accomplishment. There is only one kid at each weight that becomes a state champion in all of California. This year in California there’s about 2 million kids in high school in over 2,500 schools. It’s a dog fight every step of the way to move up in qualifying tournaments to and then get to state. Only one kid at each weight in his whole school gets to wrestle varsity. High schools are split into a league tournament of about 20 schools, top 2-3 winners at each weight in each league go to our section tournament, where about 120 schools compete against each other. The top 3 athletes that place at sections in each weight get the honor of going to State. The California State Tournament is truly a tournament of champions.

Right before we were going to open Smash Sunnyvale I ran into Jacob at CCS. I mentioned that I was going to open a gym soon. Always humble, he said, “if there’s anything you need let me know, Not sure what I can do, but seriously I want to help so just please let me know.” I tried to keep an acceptable level of excitement and I told him I’d give him a call.

He began teaching a wrestling class Monday night and would not accept any money. For a year, no matter how often I asked, he would always brush it aside. Finally, I started putting money in his shoes while he was still on the mat. Even then I would have to reason with him that it would be good to at least let us pay for his gas. After all, he was driving over 25 minutes to get to Smash Sunnyvale.

Jacob and his youngest son Ezra

That first year Jacob rarely participated in jiujitsu. Although, he had never attended one jiujitsu class, sometimes jiujitsu students would ask him to roll during his wrestling classes. He never said no. Late one evening near the end of Smash’s first year, about two weeks before the BJJ US Open, I got a text from Jacob. He asked me if I thought he could win it. I would never bet against Jacob, so I said yes. We did a few private lessons around a game plan for the US Open and of course, he won his division.

When Filip, Mario, Eli and I partnered to open Smash San Jose, Jacob was working full time at a local cemetery. Jacob began teaching some classes at Smash San Jose, getting requests for private lessons, and word started getting around to local high school coaches and wrestlers. Soon enough, they were asking him for help. His schedule quickly filled with private lessons. He began to realize that it might be possible to teach wrestling full time. Jacob told everyone that was now committed to becoming the best instructor possible. His passion and dedication to servicing student athletes in the community showed. People began to say Jacob might even be a better coach than he was a wrestler. Their support provided him with the opportunity to finally quit his other job and start teaching wrestling full time.


Coach Jacob and one of his students

Jacob has developed a very close following of supportive parents and students. They are loyal and thankful for all that he does for the kids in the community that seek out his guidance. Jacob has significantly influenced the local wrestling scene. Entire junior highs and high schools have better teams because of his efforts. A lot of local hardworking coaches are very thankful for the help he’s given them.

Having Jacob at Smash full-time is a blessing to everyone. He is always inspirational, honest, and hardworking. Because we were so thankful for his contributions Filip, Mario, Eli and I decided to make Jacob our partner and co-owner of Smash San Jose.

Jacob is one of my personal heroes. He’s one of the most giving people I’ve ever met. Very few people inspire others to be better in so many different aspects. Jacob motivates everyone around him to be a better leaders, parents, athletes, and coaches. I hoped by sharing his story you can find as much inspiration from it as I do.

Rudy Sanchez

Smash Gyms | CEO & Founder