Valencia wrestling sending 3 to state tournament

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NORWALK — For the first time in program history, Valencia will be sending three wrestlers to the CIF State Tournament.

Ben Gould, Jake Quintana and Braden Smelser will each be representing the Vikings after advancing after the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet, which was held at Cerritos College on Friday and Saturday.

“It just shows how hard Valencia’s worked and how much we deserve the support and our team is showing that we work hard, we do great on the mat and if we can build this team up, Valencia can be a powerhouse,” said Gould, a senior.

Gould won the 195-pound title after beating Tristen Wilson of Servite in a 20-7 major decision. The win extends his undefeated record to 42-0.

Tied in the first period, Gould took a 4-2 advantage on a takedown with a minute left to go in the frame. Wilson tied it up once more at 4-4 shortly after.

“I overcommitted to a cradle and got pulled through,” Gould said. “That’s just showing examples of when you do have him on his back, he’s still a wrestler, he still can reverse you.”

Gould got a reversal of his own to close out the first period with a 5-4 advantage and kept piling on the points for the remainder of the match. He had several opportunities to pin Wilson, but Wilson wouldn’t be held down easily.

The two had wrestled previously at the California Invitational Tournament (CIT) in Morro Bay in January.

“I knew he wanted to wrestle from open,” Gould said. “The whole I time I had to keep the aggressive style, keep working his head down the whole time, keep the pressure on him. I knew I would win it.”

In the 106-pound weight class, Quintana beat Justin Rodriguez of Palm Desert 3-1 in overtime. It was a do-or-die match that would decide whether or not Quintana would get a ticket to the state tournament.

“I was just like, one match, one match, it doesn’t matter if this is the match to place or the match to just wrestle back, I have to take it,” Quintana said of his mindset before the match. “It’s the same match every time. Just one match at a time.”

After a scoreless first period, Quintana was able to record one point in the second frame before having two takedown attempts denied by the referee, who ruled them both outside the circle.

“My coach talked to us way earlier in the season, he showed us some college wrestlers that are really good,” said Quintana, a freshman. 

“He said even when like they don’t call the takedown and it’s a big match, he walks right back to the center of the mat and doesn’t go complain to the ref and is just like, I’m going to keep going because I didn’t get the call, I’m not going to argue my way to get the call, I’ve just got to suck it up and keep wrestling.”

Also wrestling in the consolation bracket, Smelser (152) beat Diego Cruz of Dos Pueblos in the fourth round 5-2.

Using his height and length to his advantage, Smelser managed a takedown with 22 seconds left in the first period to gain an early lead. A takedown in the second and an escape in the third sealed the decision win for Smelser.

He then advanced to wrestle Andrew Sparks of Calvary Chapel in the fifth round.

Smelser lost to Sparks the day before, adding an extra mental obstacle to the match. Sparks came out aggressive and didn’t let up.

“I knew the would be on my head a lot,” Smelser said. “He still got in shots, he’s just very fast. I have to keep up with his pace on the floor. I have to shoot my own shots, which I didn’t really do enough of. I should been more on the offensive than the defensive.”

The three Vikings will be headed to Bakersfield for the CIF State Tournament, held at Rabobank Arena on Feb. 22 and 23.

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