WESLACO, Texas (Valley Central) – Tomas and Elektra Garces honored their uncle in the 18th annual Tomas Garces Invitational.

The invitational takes place every year at Weslaco High on the first Saturday in January. The tournament is dedicated to the former Weslaco Panther, Tomas Garces.

Garces, part of the Texas Army National Guard’s 1836th Transportation Company, lost his life on Sept. 6, 2004, in the line of duty when his convoy was attacked by enemy forces using an improvised explosive device in Baghdad. He was just 19 years old.

Since then, the Panthers pay homage to Garces who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They honor him through the sport that he loved. 

“We host the tournament every single year,” said Moises Chavez, Weslaco Wrestling Head Coach. “We bring the family out, give them the recognition that they deserve and the recognition that he deserves for serving our country and giving his life for us.”

For two Weslaco wrestlers that competed in the tournament this year, the annual event hit home.

Elektra (junior) and Tomas Garces (senior) are the niece and nephew of Tomas Garces. Elektra is a co-captain of the girl’s team, while Tomas is the captain of the boy’s team. They knew the pressure that comes with this tournament.

“I have his name,” said Tomas Garces, nephew of Tomas Garces. “A lot of people tend to look at me a little bit differently, so I have to absorb it. I get into that mental state that I need to be to actually go and compete.”

Elektra said that while being a Garces wrestler is a lot of pressure, it is exciting.

“I get to represent him in the sport that he loves and his number one passion,” she said.

The younger Tomas Garces competed for the final time in the invitational. He picked up a quick pin in his match as the boys won the tournament over Sharyland.

Meanwhile, Elektra pinned her opponent in just 39 seconds on Saturday. The Weslaco girl’s team finished third. 

However, win or lose, the tribute given to the Garces family every first Saturday in January goes a long way for the family.

“This is funny, my grandma never wanted me to join wrestling,” said Elektra. “The other day she was telling me ‘I’m so happy you actually joined it. I’ve never seen you so happy. I’ve never seen you so excited to put your passion into something and show that passion joy.’”