Valencia wrestling sends five to CIF-SS Masters

The Valencia wrestling team poses after placing second at the CIF-Southern Section Divisional Championships on Saturday, Feb. 17, at Westminster High School.

Valencia wrestling coach Brian Peterson — like most coaches — would like to believe all of his wrestlers are capable of reaching the CIF-Southern Section Masters.

The likes of Chance Rich (126 pounds), Nicholas Lopez (160), Derrick Top (152) and Ben Gould (170) were seemingly locks to advance to the Masters after this week’s CIF-Southern Section Divisional Championships last Friday and Saturday and Westminster — and did.

But the Vikings didn’t stop there.

Sophomore Braden Smelser (138) and freshman Trent Munoz (145) will join their teammates at the Masters this Friday and Saturday at Temecula Valley High School. Smelser locked in his spot with a third-place finish in his weight division, with Munoz finishing fifth in his.

The Vikings also finished second as a team in the Southern Division.

MORE: Valencia advances duo to CIF State girls wrestling championships

This all came after Valencia won its first-ever CIF-SS Dual Championship back on Feb. 3.

“I’m proud of the guys for advancing and its phenomenal that we placed second as a team in just our fourth year,” Peterson said. “We got a lot of compliments from other coaches on how quickly we’ve been able to develop our program.”

The Vikings finished sixth at last year’s divisional championships. Peterson believes the Vikings were destined for a first-place finish if they still had Israel Galvan (113), who was ranked to open the season by California Wrestler, but recently left the team.

Rich and Gould took first place in their respective divisions over the weekend, with Top finishing third and Lopez fourth. Rich, a Cal State Bakersfield commit, was the only Valencia wrestler to advance to the CIF State wrestling championships last year and became the program’s first state medalist — placing sixth in his weight division.

Peterson is confident Rich will find his way back to the state meet. He also feels pretty good about Gould’s chances but was weary to make any further predictions for a meet that’s been nicknamed the “Meat Grinder” by the wrestling community.

“You never know who’s going to come out of that meet, it’s so, so tough,” Peterson said. “You could run the meet over and over again and you wouldn’t have the same wrestlers come out.”

“You also need a little luck with the brackets.”

The Vikings will be pulling double-duty for the upcoming weekend, with the CIF State girls wrestling championships set for Friday and Saturday at the Visalia Convention Center.

Freshman America Lopez enters the meet as the No. 2 seed in the 170-pound division and Priscilla Ramirez will be competing in the 116-pound division.

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