Valencia’s wrestling team ranked in preseason polls

Valencia's Ben Gould wrestles against Nordhoff's Jonathan Ortiz during the Tri-Valley League Championship in wrestling at Valencia High School on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. Gould pinned Ortiz in the first round. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

The Valencia Vikings wrestling team is coming off a transformative season last year, winning its first CIF-Southern Section title in program history.

Last season’s finish and this year’s expectations have slated the Vikings in the No. 2 spot in Division 5 preseason polls released on Monday.

“It’s very rewarding to be recognized and to have succeeded at the level we’re at now,” said senior Damion Donigian, who will be wrestling at 120 pounds this year. “Considering we’re a team that’s been around for five years.”

Valencia’s wrestling program has made tremendous strides in the few years since its inauguration.

With a title under their belt and now being recognized in preseason polls, the Vikings are feeling extremely proud of their accomplishments.

However, pride won’t come before the fall with this team, as they aren’t going to let up to start the season. They strive to get better day-by-day.

“There is always room for improvement,” Donigian said. “This season will bring new challenges with last year’s seniors graduating and moving on to college. It will be a great experience for all of us.”

Some of the new wrestlers include freshmen Jake Quintana, Lucas Paschia and Alex Alvarado. Sophomore Trent Munoz also returns after a fruitful freshman campaign.

Valencia also returns seniors Ben Gould, Ajay Gupta, Anthony Galvez, Donigian and juniors Braden Smelser and Javier Garcia.

“We have recruited a good group of new wrestlers on the team,” Donigian said. “Keep an eye out for Jake Quintana and Trent Munoz.”

As the only prep wrestling team in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Vikings have a particular weight on their shoulders that no other prep teams have to deal with.

For Valencia, it’s about propelling the sport forward and showing neighboring cities that the SCV has a lot to offer when it comes to wrestling.

“There is added pressure since Valencia is the only high school that has a wrestling program,” Donigian said. “We represent the entire Santa Clarita Valley.”

The season begins with a scrimmage on Saturday, Nov. 17, as the Vikings will travel to Irvine for the Irvine Rumble which starts at 8 a.m.

The Vikings will return home for a dual meet against Buena High School on Tuesday, Nov. 20 followed by a dual meet with Alemany on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at Alemany High School.

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