South Lake Tahoe native fighting to recover after deadly car crash |

South Lake Tahoe native fighting to recover after deadly car crash

Chris Cocores will be defending his belt in the 145-pound Mixed Martial Arts main event.
J.P. Kelsey/Tahoe Daily Tribune |

How to help

The GoFundMe page for Chris Cocores can be found here. The GoFundMe page for Cecilla (Ceci) Casares can be found here. Escobar Training Grounds is hosting a one-day seminar for all skill levels. For more information, contact Escobar Training Grounds at 530-544-9010 or stop by 972 Tallac Ave.

In the world of mixed martial arts, Chris Cocores is known for his dedication and toughness — traits that will likely prove crucial in the South Lake Tahoe native’s current fight. Cocores, 26, is recovering after a car crash that killed his girlfriend, Cecilla (Ceci) Casares, and their dog.

“He’s a champion,” Cory Escobar, owner/manager of Escobar Training Grounds, said of Cocores. “I think that’s what’s gotten him to survive and hopefully make a recovery.”

Escobar spoke from the hospital where Cocores — the WFC (World Fighting Championships) 145-pound champion — had already undergone multiple procedures. He broke his arm, foot and back and suffered a serious laceration to his abdomen and his face, according to friends and family.

“He’s hanging in there … we’re basically just holding out and hoping that whatever they do will give him the best recovery,” said Casey Nord, Cocores’ brother.

Cocores, known in the MMA community as Coco, was riding in the car with Casares, 21, and their dog on Dec. 28. According to California Highway Patrol, Casares was driving at an unknown speed southbound on U.S. 395 near Kramer Junction in San Bernardino County.

The car veered into the northbound lane where it crashed head-on with a Toyota Sienna. A 28-year-old man from Chino was driving the Sienna. A third vehicle was involved in the crash after the initial impact, according to CHP, which was notified of the crash around 11:20 p.m. Dec. 28. CHP does not believe alcohol or other drugs were a factor.

Casares, who was living in La Mesa with Cocores, was pronounced dead at the scene. Cocores’ dog also died in the crash.

“My heart is absolutely breaking for Ceci’s family … at the same time we’re grateful to God that Chris is still with us because it appears to be a miracle,” South Lake Tahoe resident Peggy Cocores said of her grandson.

A day before the crash, Cocores, who graduated from South Tahoe High in 2009, stopped by wrestling practice. It ended up being a powerful lesson on how quickly life can change, said Ryan Wallace, South Tahoe wrestling coach.

Like many who know Cocores, Wallace, who organized a GoFundMe page to help with medical and recovery expenses, traced their relationship back to Cocores’ determination. Wallace became the coach after Cocores graduated, but the latter showed up for a beach wrestling event sometime after graduating.

As Wallace recalled, some of the students beat Cocores that day. Rather than sulking, he approached Wallace and asked if he would help him become a better wrestler. Cocores was trying to become a well-rounded mixed martial artist.

“He was humble enough to know that he needed help, and he was brave enough to come and say ‘hey I need help, will you help me?’” Wallace recalled.

Wallace’s one condition was that Cocores act as a positive role model for the youth in the community. He did just that.

“I just saw something in him,” Wallace said. “He’s just a special guy. He has a positivity and an energy about him that I wanted myself to be around and the kids that I coach to be around.”

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Escobar said it slightly different: “He’s someone you wouldn’t want your son to fight, but you’d want your daughter to marry.”

Cocores, at least on social media, has remained positive through what Nord noted has been the third major tragedy in the past six years. Their mother died in 2011 and Cocores’ grandfather died in 2015. He has asked friends and family to lend support to the Casares.

In remaining positive, Cocores has said he will fight again.

“We all want to make sure he’s going to be able to continue fighting,” Nord said.

That might be a ways away — more surgeries are likely in the more immediate future. His determination is nonetheless remarkable.

“It’s pretty incredible to me how positive he is and how motivated he is to show that this terrible thing isn’t going to destroy him,” Wallace said.

Escobar Training Grounds intends on hosting a fundraiser on Jan. 13. Billed as Coco’s Comeback, the one-day seminar is intended to be a welcoming and enriching experience for athletes of all skill and experience levels. The cost is $20 — all of which will go directly to Cocores’ medical costs. For more information, contact Escobar Training Grounds at 530-544-9010 or stop by 972 Tallac Ave.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to include a dropped word in a quote by Peggy Cocores.

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