With his team surrounding him on the mat, Valencia wrestling coach Brian Peterson had a lot to go over at practice Monday, but the most important topic was saved for last. Where were the Vikings going to put their first CIF-Southern Section Team Southern Division Championship plaque? Shouts of “my bedroom” as the award’s home were ignored, and it was placed in a trophy case. The Vikings placed second on Saturday out of 16 schools, taking down No. 1 seed Irvine High in the process.
“I’m pretty sure we were only expected to win our first dual, maybe our second,” said Nick Lopez, who is now 32-9 on the season. “To get to the semifinals was pretty exciting and to beat the number one seed was really exciting and I kind of didn’t believe it.” Valencia defeated Rancho Mirage High, La Puenta High and Irvine before losing to Mira Costa High of Manhattan Beach, 38-29, in the finals. It was the Vikes’ second appearance at the event. Last season, they were eliminated in the first round by Palos Verdes Peninsula High of Rolling Hills Estates. “I think this year we were just ready for what was coming,” said Valencia’s Chance Rich. “Last year we didn’t really expect it, our team wasn’t as strong. “We were just ready. Our coach got us ready this year. We trained hard. We knew what was coming and we just went after it.” The dual was Rich’s second since returning from a December elbow injury. His arm isn’t bothering him in the slightest, which is important in his journey to reach the CIF Individual State Tournament once again. Although the team wrestling season is over, Rich and 10 other Valencia wrestlers will be heading to the CIF-SS Individual Championships on Feb. 17 and 18. The results of this past weekend have given them the advantage of confidence. “The mental aspect of wrestling is huge,” Rich said. “If you don’t have it up in the head, it can destroy you. If you go out there and you’re just a nervous wreck, you’re not going to perform. But if you go out confident and ready to go, you can beat anybody at any time.” The top five finishers in each weight class will move on to the CIF-SS Masters Championships on Feb. 24 and 25.