COVINA – Determination. Selflessness. Perseverance. Those three words best describe Northview High School wrestler Steven De La Fuente. “Coach (Dave) Ochoa doesn’t say much, but he came up to me and said, `If anyone can do this, you can,’ and that gave me all the confidence I needed,” De La Fuente said. The Vikings captain said the hardest part of his three-week recovery was the feeling that he wasn’t helping his teammates. “It was mind-boggling, the way he handled this,” Northview assistant coach Bobby Bellamy said. “He put his hand on my shoulder and said, `Coach, we’re going to do this.’ ” “I felt like I was letting these guys down and that hurt because they’re my family,” De La Fuente said. “The way Steven dealt with this, without complaining and working so hard, was an inspiration for all of us,” Ochoa said. De La Fuente is part of the wrestling factory that Northview seems to assemble each season, but even people within the program had to be surprised at this year’s success after losing three of its best wrestlers in recent memory. Larry Medina, Caleb Flores and Shad Manigault all graduated a year ago, yet the Vikings are sending five wrestlers to Bakersfield, matching last year’s effort. “Caleb and Shad really took me under their wings and did so much in helping me become the wrestler I am today,” De La Fuente said. Flores, who has a full-ride scholarship at Northern Iowa University, said De La Fuente is the epitome of hard work and selflessness. “Steven deserves everything good that’s coming his way, because he is such a great guy and works so hard,” Flores said. “He’s like a best friend and a little brother all in one to me.” De La Fuente admits he’s not the strongest guy on the mat, but he believes his experience and wrestling IQ has translated into a lot of success. “He’s able to get kids out of position and uses leverage to his advantage,” Bellamy said. “He’s dominant like Shad and has the slickness of Caleb.” Putting the perfect season aside, his character is what many admire most about De La Fuente. “Steven is a very committed to his teammates and is as nice and respectful a guy as you’d like to represent your program,” Bellamy said. “Steven inspires me a lot because he never stops working hard,” two-time CIF-SS champion and teammate Nick Inclan said. Much of the credit for his maturity rests with his father, Joe, and his mother, Lupe. De La Fuente’s parents no longer live together, but they both play positive roles in their son’s life. “Both of them have been such loving figures in my life and have done whatever I’ve needed,” De La Fuente said. De La Fuente also credits Ochoa, Bellamy and his teammates for creating a family atmosphere that facilitates growth on and off the mat. “They’ve created an environment that helps us become winners together because we care so much for each other,” De La Fuente said. “Coach Bellamy is like a second father to me and I can talk to him about anything and know that he’s always willing to listen.” His coaches like Del La Fuente’s chances of wrestling in college. Northern Iowa, Cal State Bakersfield and UC Davis have all shown interest. De La Fuente maintains a 3.0 grade point average. De La Fuente’s intentions are nothing less than a state title this weekend, but he’ll be content if he leaves his heart and soul out on the mat. “It feels so good to be back on top. I’m not thinking about losing, but if I do, I will be prepared to bounce back because that’s what champions are made of.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The Vikings senior is 28-0 and will be making his first appearance at the CIF State meet in Bakersfield on Friday, just two months after tearing cartilage in his knee. De La Fuente, 17, recently won league, CIF-Southern Section divisional and Masters Meet titles at 140 pounds, but he said none of it was possible without the reassurances he’s gotten from his coaches and teammates.