As Jake Quintana drilled with Braden Smelser at a Valencia wrestling practice on Monday, only his left knee ever made contact with the ground. Part of that is because of his style.
“He doesn’t go to his knees,” said coach Brian Peterson. “So everything that he’s doing is trying to do it standing, so he doesn’t touch his knee anywhere. It’s just kind of crazy as a wrestler, because we’re constantly going on our knees.”
The other part of why one doesn’t touch is because a chronic knee injury prevents him from doing so. After unprecedented success in a freshman year that ended at the CIF State tournament, Quintana has been limited this year due to the injury and has missed three tournaments so far.
He wrestled two weeks ago at the Kern County Invitational, but couldn’t finish the competition because of his knee. A week later, at the Morro Bay California Invitational Tournament, he was wrestling again. And he won fifth place in the 132-pound weight class.
“It felt good to just come in there and I ended up beating the No. 10 kid in the state in overtime,” Quintana said. “So I felt good coming back. It doesn’t matter if you’re out the whole time, you still show up and you’ve got to live with that result. I just came out and said, whatever happens, happens and it felt good to get that big win.”
His comeback hasn’t been without difficulty, but none of his time was wasted in the recovery process. With plenty of motivation and support from his dad, Quintana spent plenty of time in the weight room, which caused him to jump up four weight classes from the 106 division ahead of this season.
The sophomore also spent plenty of time watching film of his previous matches, something Peterson attributes to his high wrestling IQ.
“I just like watching it,” Quintana said. “A lot of people don’t like watching it because they don’t like dealing with like the stuff that they messed up on, but I like using it to get better and fix it.”
Being smart in his matches is an advantage to Quintana, who is often shorter than his opponents at 132. Peterson and Quintana have gone back and forth about dropping down a weight class, but Quintana is happy with the results he’s seen at his current weight.
“His point of view is ‘I just need to get better,’ which I love that attitude,” Peterson said.
Peterson also sees some physical as well as mental advantages for Quintana.
“It’s more difficult for a tall wrestler to get in on his legs as long as he’s doing his job, staying low, but you can see like as it goes with Braden,” Peterson said in reference to Quintana’s drilling partner, “just as an example, there’s a huge weight difference, much taller, they are drilling but Braden is gonna have a hard time getting around a little short Jake.”
Quintana isn’t wrestling in any tournaments this weekend, but will return for the start of the CIF-Southern Section postseason at the start of February.
“I’m just excited to see how it goes being a new weight class and just dealing with these injuries just being smart about it so I’m ready to go for the playoffs,” Quintana said. “Not making it so much of like a job, just doing it for fun for me. Just to enjoy it.”
Vikings see success at weekend tourneys
In addition to Quintana taking fifth place at the California Invitational Tournament, freshman Alex Munoz came in third place in the 145 bracket and Trent Munoz placed fifth at 160. Valencia placed 16th as a team out of 81 teams.
For the girls, America Lopez came in second at the Born Vicious Tournament at Ridgeview High School.
JV wrestler Druid Altura won first place in the 138-pound weight class at the Arroyo High School JV Last Chance Tournament on Saturday. Victor Saiz (170) placed third and Deon Cailles, Orlando Henderson and Alex Alvarado placed seventh in their respective weight classes.