Matthew Rodriguez: One of Canada’s up-and-coming youth in bouldering

January 12, 2024 / By zoebeauchemin

Sport: Bouldering + Lead
Age: 19 years old
Origin city: Toronto, ON
Ranking: 5 th in Bouldering in Canada
Instagram: @matthew_w.r

Despite having fewer years of competition, he has already seen big success. Coming in 3rd place in Lead and 6th place in Bouldering Nationals this past year. He’s one to watch.

What brought you to competitions?
“I was just a casual climber for the first 5 years. I did a couple of competitions but was usually in the middle of the pack.
I started going to comps with a couple of my friends because they were doing well and I was like I want to be there with them. So, then I started really training for comps 3 years ago.”

Did you do any other sports before?
“I played badminton for about two years, but I got bored of it and found climbing. I used to go to the park a lot and hang out on the monkey bars. So, I guess I had pretty tough hands before which helped with climbing.”

How did you get into climbing?
“My dad took me to the gym one day just to check it out and I liked it right away. There’s this wall called the Dragon at the Hub here in Ontario and I really wanted to climb it but I could only get like a ¼ of the way up that day. I begged my dad to take me back and he kept taking me back until I finally could climb it.”

How did Nationals in Vancouver go this year?
“Bouldering I felt could have gone better but I’m happy with making finals. Last year I was 7 th (one spot out of finals) so this year I really wanted to make finals. For Lead, I wanted to top the finals route but I had a foot slip on the headwall and ended up getting second place.”

What was your main goal going into this year?
“I really want to make the open national team this year. In 2021, at my first Open Bouldering Nationals, I got 17 th and last year I got 7 th . I think that I have a good score in the combined format now, but making the team is hard.”

Have you competed with the national team before?
“I’ve been on the Youth Team for the past two years and went to the Youth World Championships in Korea this past year for my last year in Junior.”

What inspires you to pursue international competition?
“I like watching Serato win, like every World Cup. He’s younger than me so it’s pretty good motivation.”

What gym do you call home? Do you train with others?
“I train at this gym called “The Hub” since it’s the closest and largest gym in the area of Toronto. I usually train with friends at the gym but they don’t do comps. The closest competitor to me is like 2 hours away in Waterloo so we only train together like once a month.”

How do you train? What does an average session look like?
“I go with the flow. Like if I wake up one day and I feel like doing pull-ups then I’ll do a ton of pull-ups. I focus my training on 3 main things: pull-ups, push-ups, and core. I like to just have fun and try to improve in every step that I can. If I can’t do something in 4 or 5 tries then I’ll work more on that style. Like slab, I’m pretty awful at slab.”

How would you describe your climbing style?
“I’d say fast, consistent, and tiring. I rapid-fire a lot. If I fall off I’ll usually like hop right back on until I do it. I’ll rest for 20 seconds then get impatient and want to send it so badly I put my shoes back on and run to the wall.”

What does competition prep look like for you?
“Before competitions, I usually watch the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) competitions on YouTube or inspiration from Instagram. I follow a lot of climbers so it’s easy to get inspired and stay motivated.”

How do you prepare for an international vs domestic competition?
“Usually, I focus on feeling confident on the wall and I rest a couple of days before. I don’t have a strict diet but I try to eat healthy-ish leading up to it. The day before, I’ll always eat an entire box of Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars. Just like the vanilla-dipped chocolate type. Usually as a pre-dinner snack the day before the comp.

Last time, at Vail, there was this boulder that wasn’t that hard physically but I wasn’t flexible enough so I spent the entire 5 minutes trying to get my foot onto this hold. So maybe I’ll start stretching before.

If it’s a Canadian competition, I want to make finals every single time. But in the US, I’m okay if I don’t do well and not make the semi-finals. The competition is much stiffer there so I won’t be too mad. Last time, at the NACS in Vail I got 37 th out of 130 or so people. It’s much different.”

How do you balance training and university?
“I’m in my second year studying graphic design right now and I only take 3 or 4 courses at a time. I check in in the morning, see if there’s anything to do, and if not I’ll close it and go train. I think I was drawn to graphic design because it’s a field that I find interesting and is a flexible work set-up to balance my climbing. One day, I want to get a job somewhere in the US like SLC, LA, or Colorado so I can work there and climb.”

Are the Olympics on your radar?
“Yea definitely. I think the Olympics are like the ultimate stage for climbers and showcase the best of the best in our sport. Also, the fact it only happens once every 4 years means you have to bring your A-game when the event rolls around. I’ll try for 2028 and I think 2032 will be the last year I’ll try to go for it.”

Thoughts on JACKALOPE?
“I first went to Montreal in 2022 for the North American Cup Series (NACS) and thought it was a sick event. Then when I saw they were doing it in Virginia Beach, I was like oh yea I’ll fly down for that. The US always throws better events than in Canada and JACKALOPE Virginia Beach was really fun. Last year I was 4 th at VB so I’ll be going back this year for a podium spot.”

Do you have any upcoming competitions on your calendar?
“I’ll try to do as many NACS as I can and a bunch of local cash comps too. The US throws better comps than we do in Canada so probably more locals down there. There’s one in Pittsburgh actually this Saturday I’m going to this and a couple more in January. I like those locals because they’re more fun than those sanctioned by Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) comps.”

High-performance sports are intense but chatting with Matthew reminded me that you have to have fun too! If you’re not having fun then why are you doing it? His clear vision and direction, his commitment to the sport, and his dedication to having fun in the process are parts of the building blocks that have brought him so quickly to where he is today.
Catch him up next on the NACS circuit this upcoming Spring.