Fresh off a break up with what appeared to be the woman of his dreams, Carlos Quiroz realized that although his plans to settle down and start a family had escaped him, life had just begun.
“I had a wonderful relationship for five years,” Quiroz said. “Sadly we broke up, and I woke up one morning and said, ‘You’re 29. What are you going to do? You quit on your dreams, why don’t you pick it up and start over?’”
The 30-year-old high school teacher, insurance broker and Panama native decided to go back to college and get his master’s degree in business administration. He chose Lindenwood, a school that had been recommended to him by a childhood friend before he met his girlfriend.
Once Quiroz arrived on campus, he made the most of his new environment. Armed with nothing more than curiosity for the sport, Quiroz took an immediate interest in becoming a college wrestler until a scheduling mixup took him in another direction.
“I wanted to do wrestling, but I showed up to the gym, and nobody was there, so I decided to join weightlifting that same day instead,” he said.
Quiroz had also been a casual fan of pool back home, so he joined the Lindenwood billiards team. He said he fell in love with the structure and environment of the sport, even though he saw little future in it.
“I never thought I was going to be great, but I love the system here,” Quiroz said. “In tournaments, if I miss because I’m not very good yet, people say ‘good shot, nice try’ instead of anything bad.”
In addition to weightlifting and billiards, Quiroz joined the campus martial arts club — although he’s already a seasoned veteran of this activity, a first-degree black belt.
“Karate has been the main thing in my life,” Quiroz said. “Ten years ago I wouldn’t do all this for sure. I was way too insecure. I know from karate that you suck at the beginning of anything, no matter what. Since I can do karate, I feel like I can do anything.”
Quiroz said the sport has helped him to be fearless.
“People don’t like to be out of their comfort zone; if I don’t leave my comfort zone, I’ll die inside,” Quiroz said. “Me leaving my comfort zone shows me how alive I am.”
Quiroz starts off his mornings at 5:07 with weightlifting practice, then goes to classes all day. In the afternoon, he practices with the martial arts club and then rounds out the night with billiards practice from 6-8 p.m. mixing in the occasional solo practice from 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
Lindenwood billiards coach Mark Wilson said he has developed a stronger respect for Quiroz as he has watched him put in the work to improve.
“He’s the type of person I would scholarship,” Wilson said. “Positive spirit, willing to work hard, coachable and comes in every practice cheerful. I didn’t know he had so much going on, but he comes in like he can’t wait.”
Assistant weightlifting coach Austin Rodriguez echoes Wilson’s praise.
“He really likes to connect with people,” Rodriguez said. “It’s awesome; you always wish you had more guys like that.”
Quiroz said it takes very little effort to stop for a minute and ask how someone is doing.
“That’s how I’ve always been, and most people are the same way back to me,” he said.
Quiroz’s compassion shines through even when he’s in the middle of a competitive fight, said Malachi Cecil, president of the martial arts club.
“He’s so good that there’s not a lot you can do sometimes,” he said. “I have to tell him not to say sorry sometimes because he’ll side kick me so hard it knocks me down, and you can tell he feels bad.”
Quiroz has officially won his first match in a collegiate billiards tournament, his peers have labeled him the most skilled fighter in the martial arts club, his coaches are anticipating his first weightlifting meet in 2018, and he shows high success in the classroom as well.
He’s already planning his next challenge, which is to learn about other cultures by living in as many countries as he can — even though he only speaks two languages.
“I’m not really scared of trying anything new,” Quiroz said. “If I didn’t try new things my biggest struggle would be my own regrets.”
Article by: Walker Van Wey – Lindenwood University