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Zabdiel Luna: The Wrestler

Zabdiel Luna

Zabdiel Luna Colin Michael Simmons

City Pages' People Issue celebrates people making Minnesota a better place.

Coach Zabdiel Luna of Shakopee is a man of faith. He says that to be a good Christian is to be a good citizen—and that means more to him than most people.

Luna came to this country as a small child, spirited across the border by his parents. He grew up loved and supported, but undocumented. At 13, he shirked a church dinner only to fall off his bike and bust his wrist. As he sat on the curb, dreading the arrival of the ambulance and the discovery that his family didn’t have any kind of health insurance, he wondered briefly if God was punishing him.

Luna was seemingly being punished all his life. When his dad’s back gave out and the teenage boy had to stay up at night to shovel snow and support the family. When the fatigue caught up to him and he fell asleep in class. When his grades slipped, when he got kicked out of his high school passion—wrestling—until he got back on track.

He was punished every time he showed up and turned heads at job interviews, only to be given a job application with a blank for a social security number he didn’t have. He was being raised in a country that seemingly didn’t want him, no matter how hard he worked or how nice he was. The alternative, Mexico, was utterly foreign to him.

But Luna was a good wrestler, and he knew how to hang in there. He muscled his grades back up in time to win state. In 2012, when luck and circumstance got him permission to live and work in the States through DACA, he started working 90-hour weeks to put himself through school. He graduated from Hennepin Technical College and became the first person in his family to get a degree.

Then he became a coach on his old high school wrestling team, recruiting diverse kids and encouraging them to get involved in sports. He later expanded to coaching at Shakopee Middle School West as well. He now has a stable residency via a U-Visa, and he’s applying for citizenship.

But one of the most impressive things he’s done is come forward about his story—his origins as an undocumented person. Scott County went for Trump in the 2016 election, after months of railing against immigrants and refugees and promising to build a wall on the southern border. After earning a solid reputation in his own community, Luna found many people were surprised to hear where he’d come from.

“They never imagined the things I was going through,” he says. “They started to care more about it, you know?”

The more he can get people to care, the better things will be for the next person in his shoes. A good Christian, he says, is a good citizen. And that’s exactly what he intends to be. 

Click here to read other profiles from this year's City Pages People Issue.