Getting to represent the United States in an athletic event in another country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And that’s just the experience Gridley High School wrestler Raiden Montero had recently. He traveled to Japan as part of a team of California high school grapplers that tangled with Japanese wrestlers.

But the experience was about more than wrestling.

It was about cultural exchange, making new friends and having some new experiences.

And for Montero, it was a chance to explore a country he’s always been fascinated with and use a language he taught himself.

Montero has been wrestling since age 4. A senior at Gridley High School, Montero just turned 17.

He won his first international match, a 10-0 major decision.

But Montero stressed again that the wrestling was just part of the experience.

 “We got to be in a Japanese classroom, we got to eat Japanese food, and really suck in the Japanese culture,” Montero said.

And since Montero spoke the language, he got to serve as the team translator.

Montero shared a video presentation and slideshow about his experience in Japan. He also fielded questions from Rotary members.

“We had a really good time,” Montero said.

The California group got to visit five Japanese cities, including Saporro and Tokyo.

And adversaries on the mat quickly became new friends off it, Montero said.

There’s not much rest for Montero now that he’s home, however. He also plays football, and the Bulldogs just started fall practice on Monday of this week.

And after football season, his senior wrestling campaign will be at hand.