This article can be found published on the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
A typical day for Greg Tamargo starts at 6:15 a.m. as he heads out to school, returning home at 2:18 for 15 minutes before driving over an hour for practice from 4:30 to 9, then returning home to do homework and finally sleep between midnight and 1 a.m. before starting the routine all over again.
“I now have senior privileges, which helps me a lot,” he said. “I get out of school at about 1:30 every day. I now have an extra 45 minutes just to get a little bit of work done.”
It has been a tough road for the Unionville senior as he tries to balance his school life with an athletic one, which consists mainly of gymnastics.
Tamargo started off in soccer as a young child, but his parents quickly spotted their son doing cartwheels around the field and decided to try something else.
“My parents originally put me in when I was about 2-years-old because I was a very hyper child and they wanted me to be active,” he said. “It’s something I grew up with. I don’t think they ever planned on keeping me in it.”
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Being a male gymnast growing up wasn’t always the easiest for Tamargo, who started at KMC Dance & Gymnastics in Kennett Square.
“I was made fun of as a kid a little bit, but I have become not as self-conscious about it and never really care what everyone else says,” he said. “Once I made Nationals in seventh grade, people respected me more.”
Even with gymnastics, he continued to be active in other sports, including lacrosse and tennis, but when high school came around, he knew he would have to choose which sports path he wanted to pursue.
“I had to make decisions,” Tamargo said. “I had three main sports I had a chance of playing in college, [but] I realized I had a future for gymnastics. I have been much more successful in gymnastics throughout my whole life, so I figured it was something I needed to do. I’m only going to be able to do it until I’m 23 or 24. I can do lacrosse and tennis when I’m older.”
With so much of his focus and time spent at the gym, which can vary between 20 to 30 hours a week, depending on whether it’s competition season or not, Tamargo is still able to achieve a high academic standing with the National Honors Society and Spanish Honor Society.
To top it off, it isn’t just your run of the mill courses either, as he is taking three AP and two academic courses along with a couple of electives. And don’t forget he is also a member of the yearbook club and diving team.
“It’s been difficult,” Tamargo said. “It’s something my parents have taught me to do as I’ve grown up. My mom is extremely organized and I guess I get that from her [and] through my past experiences, I’ve had to learn how to do this.”
Tamargo has been successful in school and even more so in gymnastics as he has qualified for Nationals every eligible year since his first trip in seventh grade.
He finished sixth in the country on rings at the Junior Olympic Nationals in Portland, Ore., last year.
“I haven’t been as successful nationally as I would like to be because I have really high expectations,” Tamargo said. “I always think of myself as I can always go higher. I realized I have to set goals wherever I am.”
With those goals came the realization that he needed a change behind the scenes and it happened September of 2012.
“I was looking to try something new because I felt like I wasn’t getting the training as the best I could be with my potential,” he said.
So Tamargo hitched a ride with competitor and friend Jonny Tang out to his gym, the Montgomery County Sports Performance Center in Harleysville, Pa., and fit right in and began training that night and has been there since.
The move, unknowingly at the time, also helped solidify his future.
A graduate and former member of the Penn State gymnastics team was brought in by Brad Davis, Tamargo’s coach, to help out and he ended up staying the entire summer.
“He was bragging to the [Penn State] coach about me,” Tamargo said. “After he heard this, he e-mailed me and we kept in contact after. He asked to visit me at the gym and watch me practice for a day and at the end of that day, he told me I had a spot on the team.”
Despite being actively recruited by William & Mary, Temple and the Naval Academy, Tamargo’s mind has already been made up and he will be taking the spot – one of only six – which was offered to him by coach Randy Jepson.
At Penn State, each member of the team will only have a select couple of events they focus on instead of all-around and Tamargo knows he will have one or two events as a freshman, which he hopes includes rings, his favorite event and the one which turned around his commitment to the sport.
“I was probably one of the worst kids anyone has ever seen on the event,” he said. “As a child, I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have with my training. When I was a Level 6, I didn’t quality for Regional Championships one year and that devastated me. Two years later, I won States on rings and vault when I was 11-years-old.
“I went from not making Regional Championships, getting last or second to last at States, then went two years later and qualified for my first National Championship in Cincinnati. That one event really changed my life right there.”