Since he was 7 years old, Chance Rich has been working with Valencia High wrestling coach Brian Peterson.
From the start, Peterson knew that Rich would be a state medalist. Turns out the coach was right, as Rich finished sixth at 120 pounds Saturday in the CIF State Boys Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield.
“He was just really athletic,” Peterson said. “When you see a kid that’s that athletic and you see them shooting double legs and you see them exploding through people and blasting kids over, you just know that if they continue, they can become a state place winner.”
Rich made the state tournament last year, but was eliminated after the first day. This year, as the No. 7 wrestler in the 120-pound weight class, he defeated two of three opponents Friday on the opening day of the tournament.
“When I got there, I was pretty comfortable,” Rich said. “It’s a pretty big stage, but I just thought of it like it was another tournament. You always have those little bit of nerves, but once you get that first match out of the way, it’s just like another tournament.”
Rich beat Marco Kwan of Lowell High, 21-6; Antonio Margiotta of Las Lomas High with a pin; and Jacob Seto of Elk Grove High, 5-3, in overtime.
Then came Cleveland Belton of Temescal Canyon High, the tournament’s No. 2 wrestler in the 120 class who also defeated Rich in the CIF-Southern Section Masters tournament in late February.
Belton took Rich down early, gaining an early lead. Rich felt he was on the verge of a comeback in the third period, but a controversial call on a takedown disrupted his chances of a win.
“It kind of changed the whole match when they didn’t give me the two points,” Rich said. “It kind of changed my mindset, and I had to go for a ‘Hail Mary’ move at the end of the match and gave up five points off of that.”
Despite the 7-0 loss, Rich had the opportunity to secure a state medal on Saturday morning.
He did just that after defeating Aaron Perez of James Logan High, 4-1.
“Even though I lost my last match of the day in the quarterfinals, I knew I had to win one match. We call it the blood round, the match to place,” Rich said. “But the only pressure I had was just to win that one in the morning, and I knew I was going to be a state placer, but I was pretty confident.”
Rich continued the day with a pin of Alex Nunez of Alta Loma High before falling to Ethan Leake of Buchanan High and Greg Viloria of Merrill West High.
The junior’s performance was good enough for sixth place.
“If you want to be good, all you’ve got to do is put the time and effort in and you can do anything you want,” Rich said. “If you set your goals and you work after them, you can do it. All you’ve got to do is come to practice, work hard, listen to your coaches, your family, be respectful and you can achieve anything.”