Ben Gould leading Valencia wrestling on and off the mat

Valencia wrestler Ben Gould recently won the 195-pound title in the California Invitational Tournament. Haley Sawyer/The Signal
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Valencia wrestler Ben Gould had 195-pound titles from the Downey Invitational, the Tournament of Champions and the Kern County Invitational. In the California Invitational Tournament on Friday and Saturday, however, he was the No. 2-seeded wrestler.

“I was projected to get second,” Gould said, “but I blew that off to the side.”

Gould and his coach, Brian Peterson, watched No. 1 seed Tristen Wilson of Servite wrestle throughout the tournament, formulating a strategy should the two meet on the mat.

“He looked really dominant,” Peterson said of Wilson. “Made me a little bit nervous, but I noticed that he was really good in the open position, so he didn’t tie up that much. But he was so quick he would catch guys because he had really good movement and rhythm.”

Gould and Wilson did meet in the finals of the tournament. Gould stuck to the game plan, staying aggressive in the beginning. Wilson went for a few shots, but Gould worked his way in close and broke down his opponent’s distance abilities.

Valencia wrestler Ben Gould works with teammate Braden Smelser during a practice at Peterson Grapplers on Wednesday. Haley Sawyer/The Signal

“He’d start moving around but once I was keeping close with him, I kind of shut him down completely,” Gould said. “He would do a few double legs, single legs, all that and I’d be right there, head low, stance low and just really ready.”

Gould was able to beat Wilson in a 7-3 decision for the 195 title and become the first-ever CIT champion in Valencia wrestling program history.

He worked hard to get the win for himself, but also did it with his team in mind.

“It’s honestly a great thing to represent Valencia, show that they have a good team of wrestlers and that kids can keep on pushing and they can win these tournaments,” Gould said. “Just because we’re a smaller team, a smaller school, we can win these giant tournaments and make a name for ourselves.”

Gould began his wrestling career a little later than most, beginning to train at a facility in Castaic in seventh grade. When he entered his freshman year at Valencia, however, he began competing for the Vikings and training in Valencia at Peterson Grapplers.

He had a little bit of ground to make up for when he joined Valencia’s team, but he had at least one thing going for him:

“He’s super big,” said teammate Braden Smelser. “He was always big and ripped, so that’s pretty much it. I always loved him. He’s always really cool and everything, friendly and then he’s really good at wrestling, too.”

Putting football to the side, Gould decided to focus solely on wrestling. He spent countless hours on the mat and in the weight room in addition to working on his cardio.

Valencia wrestler Ben Gould works with teammate Braden Smelser during a practice at Peterson Grapplers on Thursday. Haley Sawyer/The Signal

He sought advice from wrestlers older than him like Chance Rich and Nick Lopez, both of whom graduated last year. Rich currently wrestles for Division 1 Cal State Bakersfield, but is still a text message away if Gould needs anything.

Eventually, he fell in love with the grind that accompanied his sport of choice.

“Times get rough, you get tired, you get sore, you don’t want to wake up in the morning for practice, but you have to work,” Gould said. “You have to keep working.

“If you stop working, the guy that’s going to beat you, he’s still working. He’s going to do more runs, more pushups, but if you could just enjoy the grind and constantly look forward and learn to love it, then it’s not that hard.”

MORE: Valencia boys wrestling finishes second at Kern County Invitational

Now, in his senior year, Gould has an undefeated record of 30-0 and has only had one offensive takedown against him all season.

With a CIT title to his name, Gould is ready for the postseason, which begins with the CIF-Southern Section Dual Meet Wrestling Championships on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Westminster Union High School.

Gould aspires to make it to the CIF State Tournament and after that, wrestle in college. He also said he wants to see the Valencia wrestling program flourish after he leaves.

“Ben is huge,” Peterson said of his value to the team. “Ben has big arms. And a big heart.”

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