On Friday and Saturday, Braden Smelser and Trent Munoz were surrounded by multiple state champion wrestlers at the 5-Counties tournament at Fountain Valley High School.
Some of California’s most elite teams were at the event, as well as teams and wrestlers from Nevada, Colorado, Washington and Utah. Valencia had just Smelser and Munoz, who were eager to take on the competition from outside of California.
“California rankings didn’t really matter in that,” Smelser said. “You don’t really know how you match up, so yeah it’s definitely good to learn from them like when you wrestle other-state kids.”
Smelser and Munoz were able to place high individually at the tournament with the former taking fifth in the 170-pound bracket and the latter seventh in the 160 bracket.
Smelser claimed fifth place by beating Baron Gaunt of West Torrance High School in a 5-3 decision.
In the process of getting to that match, Smelser had lost to a multiple-time Nevada state champion in the consolation bracket in overtime. He also lost to a wrestler who had taken eighth at the CIF State meet last season.
Although the tournament was tough, Smelser was grateful for the experience. With a more determined approach to wrestling this season, he was able to identify areas where he lost focus.
“I have to make sure I’m still in it the whole three rounds and don’t take any rest,” Smelser said. “No breaks because the kid caught me when I was kind of like really resting in there and overtime because I mean, we’re both super tired but he definitely took advantage of me slacking.”
Munoz beat Neil Carter of Servite High School in a 5-1 decision for seventh place. The 5-Counties tournament handed Munoz his first losses of the season. Heading into the event, he was riding a 24-0 undefeated streak.
“All of this wrestling that he’s doing right now, he’s like the star or one of the stars and most of his life he was never the star,” said Valencia coach Brian Peterson.
“I think that that’s one of the best ways to have life happen to you. You’re already prepared for losses, you know, you didn’t always win and everything wasn’t always given to you so that when it’s not given to you, you whine like a child. Instead, he was brought up humble and so he knows how to deal with it.”
In addition to having two wrestlers at 5-Counties, three more competed at the Kern County Invitational at Centennial High School in Bakersfield.
Freshman Alex Munoz, the younger brother of Trent, won first place by major decision in the 145 weight class. It was a milestone win for Alex, who battled nerves early on in his varsity career.
“The most difficult part was probably just like losing the nervousness just getting out there doing my thing, but I feel like I’ve gotten better at that,” Alex said.
Additionally, at the Kern County Invitational, Lucas Paschia came in third at 120 pounds and Kyle Roth was third at 152 pounds.
America Lopez represented the Vikings at the Lady Top Gun Tournament on Saturday and took first place to extend her undefeated streak this season to 14-0, pinning all her opponents.
Valencia’s JV team went to the Ventura County JV Championships with Deon Cailles claiming third place and Alex Alvarado and Victor Sainz each taking fourth.
This weekend, the varsity boys continue their schedule in Morro Bay at the California Invitational Tournament, while the girls will be at the Born Vicious Tournament in Bakersfield.
After wrestling well in a tough 5-Counties tournament, Smelser is eager to see what the coming weekend holds.
“I’m looking to definitely take some things (from 5-Counties) and I have another big tournament this weekend, so I’m definitely trying to change things and then come back and place even higher,” he said.