Monday was President’s Day, which meant Valencia High School was off of school. But for the Vikings wrestling team, it was an opportunity for more work and more training.
At 9 a.m. the team, which includes five wrestlers who will compete in the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet this weekend, met down the street from Peterson Grapplers in Valencia to run hill sprints.
“We’re definitely keeping in shape and then by the time postseason comes (coach) pretty much expects this to be our top shape,” said senior Braden Smelser. “But I mean, we never really like dial down. Like, we’ve always been the same from start of the season to the end.”
The seasons are the same from beginning to end in terms of work, but the results are different year after year. The Vikings are always improving, and Smelser has been witness to that almost more than any other wrestler on the team.
Smelser won the 170-pound weight class at the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division Individual tournament on Saturday. It was his first title at that particular tournament in his four years of varsity wrestling.
He pinned his Los Alamitos opponent in the first round for the finals win.
“Definitely always staying focused,” Smelser said of his biggest change throughout varsity wrestling. “I don’t really get distracted too much. When it’s season, like, I know it’s season. I have to make sure I’m not slacking off, always have to be working hard getting extra things in I’m lifting all the time and practicing.”
With a college scholarship as his goal, Smelser has completely dialed into wrestling and has given up free time to spend with friends and outside activities that could cause injury, like snowboarding.
Placing high at the Masters Meet this weekend and then the CIF State tournament the following weekend could also help him secure a scholarship. Smelser expects to wrestle Servite’s Valor Buck, the No. 1 seed, if he makes it to the finals at Masters.
“That’s my main goal,” Smelser said. “I want to win that and then if you place high at Masters you get a better spot at the bracket at state yeah, so it would really benefit me if I won it.”
Joining Smelser at the Masters meet will be Trent Munoz, who won second place in the 160 weight class and improved his overall record to 37-5. Alex Munoz (third in 145) and Jake Quintana (third in 132) will also compete at the Masters tournament.
Lucas Paschia took seventh place in the 120-pound weight class at the Northern Division individuals and Kyle Roth came in seventh in the 152 class. They won’t advance to the Masters tournament, but will continue their varsity careers next season as Paschia is a sophomore and Roth is a junior.
America Lopez took second place at the Girls Regional Qualifying Tournament on Saturday by beating Katja Osteen, an opponent she hadn’t wrestled since middle school, 4-2.
“She’d beat me like, all the time. And this year, I was like, that’s not gonna happen and it didn’t happen,” Lopez said.
The Girls Championships will take place at Beaumont High School this weekend on Feb. 21 and 22 and the boys’ CIF-SS Masters Meet will be at Sonora High School in La Habra on the same dates.