Barrington 220 School District is home for Mata, having attended Sunny Hill Elementary School, Hickory Hill Middle School and eventually graduating from Barrington High School. Mata didn’t have an easy childhood. He was bullied at school, but managed to channel negative energy into something positive in his life.
“My dad told us to smile at those people and tell them to have a nice day,” Mata said. “I learned to be the opposite of the bullies. My dad said if you want to be better than them, beat them in sports.”
Mata was a star athlete at Barrington High School, becoming the captain of the cross country team as a young sophomore. He earned 7 varsity letters during his high school career.
The oldest child in his family, Mata was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly after graduating from Barrington High School. He went to Ft. Louis, Washington and Ft. Jackson, South Carolina for training before being deployed to Kaiserslautern, Germany during the Vietnam War. He worked in the mail room for the U.S. Army, a position he held for two years.