BAKERSFIELD — Valencia’s Ben Gould limped out of the tunnel on the bottom level of Rabobank Arena and onto the mat. Heading into his final match of the CIF State Championships on Saturday, Gould was in pain.
“I would say before the match it was easily a 10,” Gould said, ranking the pain in his ankle, which he had sprained on the first day of the tournament. “Nine-and-a-half, 10. The worst pain I’ve ever felt in my ankle.”
But with less than 30 seconds left in the third period, as he held Servite’s Tristen Wilson’s shoulders against the mat, the last thing on his mind was the pain.
“That I did it,” Gould thought as Wilson struggled. “That I was able to push through the adversity, through the ankle injury. I was able just to grit my teeth and I got him onto his back and I knew I could pin him from there. I felt it. I felt the strength.”
When the clock hit 19 seconds, the match was over. Gould officially pinned Wilson, earning him third place in the 195-pound bracket at the CIF State Championships, the highest place that a Vikings wrestler had ever achieved at the state level.
Gould didn’t have the smoothest run at the state tournament, which began on Thursday. He started out with wins in the Round of 32 and Round of 16, but was dealt his first loss of the season in the very next round.
He lost in a 12-11 decision to Jadon Martin. In that match, he also sprained his ankle.
“When you lose, it hurts more, but you take more from it,” Gould said. “You’re going to remember why you lost, what your mistakes were, so it’s going to help you in those positions that made you do this, maybe you were on all fours and you got taken back into a tilt, you’re going to remember that tilt and you’re going to know how to defend it and how to be ready for it next time.”
After the loss, Gould moved into the consolation bracket, where he won three straight matches to reach the third-place match, where he met with a familiar wrestler in Wilson. At the CIF-Southern Section Masters Tournament on Feb. 16, Gould beat Wilson in a major decision, 20-7.
“He’s very fast, he’s very technical,” Gould said of Wilson. “You have to keep a good stance on him all time. He has that low stance, he’s explosive so you just have to be ready for those explosive attacks and have my defense at the top of my game.”
Gould was one of three boys wrestlers and six wrestlers total representing Valencia at the state tournament. He was the only boys wrestler to make it to Saturday, while America Lopez, who finished fifth, made it for the girls.
After beating Wilson, Gould sat in a hallway near the entrance to the mats, icing his ankle and getting a bandage removed from his head that was covering up a gash on his forehead. The senior reflected on his senior year with the Vikings, and where he wants to see the team head next year:
“I want them to see this and I want them to want it,” Gould said. “I want them to go to the state tournament and be able to grind, be able to enjoy it and honestly just be able to work hard every day to working to get to this state tournament and make it on that podium because it’s a big deal.
“You can do it. You worked hard and it really shows.”