Ordinarily, weekend tournaments mean long days of traveling and even longer days of matches. But the tournament on deck for Saturday for the Valencia wrestling team was right in their backyard.
The Vikings hosted the Freelance League finals at Peterson Grapplers in Valencia on Saturday morning, bringing in teams from Santa Paula, Hamilton, de Toledo and Ribet Academy among others.
“I’d say it was more fun having at our own gym,” said freshman Alex Munoz. “I mean, we had to set up everything but still, it’s like better knowing the area and knowing everything.”
The Freelance League finals serve as a qualifier for the CIF-Southern Section postseason. The winners from each boys weight class advance to the CIF-SS Individual finals on Feb. 14 and 15. The girls winners will compete in the regional qualifying tournament.
Munoz was the only boys wrestler to take the mat on Saturday, beating a wrestler from de Toledo by tech fall in the 145-pound weight class.
America Lopez was the only girls wrestler from Valencia scheduled to compete. She won by forfeit in the 170 weight class after her opponent decided to move up a weight class in order to automatically qualify for the CIF-SS individual finals.
However, Lopez was still able to wrestle in an exhibition match towards the end of the tournament. After picking up a 2-1 lead in the first round, Lopez went for a takedown with one minute remaining in the second, then was able to pin her opponent with 47 seconds left.
“I was trying to work on my shots because I haven’t been taking shots,” Lopez said. “I need to learn how to set them up and then take my shots. I took some shots, so it turned out good.”
Lopez was also pleased with having the league finals at Peterson Grapplers, as it allowed family that couldn’t ordinarily travel to tournaments to watch her wrestle on Saturday.
She was even able to have her older brother, Nick, coach her through her exhibition win. She’s also had her other older brother, Andrew coach her on occasion.
“Oh it’s so awesome,” she said. “It’s kind of hard, though, because they’re like ‘Oh yeah, you did this,’ but they’re really sweet and they’re just like, ‘We’ve got to work on this, we’ve got to do this,’ and so they’re really supportive of everything. And they’re wrestlers too, so they know what I go through.”
Seven wrestlers from Valencia — six boys and one girl — advance to the postseason after the league finals, which is all of the team.
“We’re just excited about next week in CIF and trying to perform there and do the best we can and then try to advance as many as we can into the masters meet,” said Valencia coach Brian Peterson. “A tough challenge to do that, but we know we’re going to send a few. We’ve just got to send as many as we can.”
The CIF-SS boys tournament begins on Feb. 14 and will be held at Marina High School in Huntington Beach. Lopez will compete in the girls regional qualifying tournament on Feb. 15 at Camarillo High School.