LA HABRA — Valencia High School is sending three varsity boys wrestlers to the CIF State tournament after Braden Smelser, Trent Munoz and Alex Munoz placed in the Top 9 at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet at Sonora High School in La Habra on Saturday.
Smelser was the runner-up in the 170-pound bracket, Trent came in fourth at 160 and Alex came in sixth on Saturday, the second day of the Masters Meet.
After a full day of wrestling on Friday, the senior started his day with a win by fall in the 170-pound quarterfinals, then picked up another win by an 8-4 decision in the semifinals in the afternoon.
Smelser faced No. 1 seed, Valor Buck of Servite, in the finals, whom he has wrestled before but never beaten. After two scoreless periods, Buck was able to score one point in the final round, despite having to take injury time for an apparent leg injury.
That one point ultimately gave him the 170 title.
“(It was) pretty disappointing, and I could beat him,” Smelser said. “There’s only one zero so I’ve wrestled him like twice already and he’s beaten me every time so I just really wanted the beat him at Masters. It’s like the biggest stage, if not state, I don’t know if I’ll see him.”
Buck went a perfect 5-0 in the tournament, while Smelser finished 4-1.
After losing in a 160 quarterfinals match to St. John Bosco’s Cael Valencia, Trent moved into the consolation bracket, where he pinned Tyler Hanna of Southern Torrance with 13 seconds remaining in the match.
“I was just telling myself, this is where you’ve got to dig deep,” said Trent of when he reached the consolation bracket. “This is where you want it. All these guys that are in my same position, they’re gonna want it.
“I’m gonna need to want it more than they do, so I went into that match focused and confident. I ended up pinning the guy in the third round which secured my place and going to states.”
In his next match, Trent pinned Damien’s Liam McNair with 1:09 remaining in the second period to get him into the third-place match. There, he wrestled Ethan Aguiniga from Sultana and lost in a 4-2 decision to earn fourth place.
Alex, a freshman and younger brother of Trent, pinned Sammy Mendoza of Yucaipa with five seconds remaining in the second period to start the day in the 145 bracket. After that, he won his match against Gavin Walker of Dana Hills in a 5-1 decision.
Alex beat Damien’s Liam McNair in a 10-2 decision before his day was ended in the following match. Luke Gayer of Calvary Chapel pinned him with 35 seconds remaining in the first period to hand him sixth place.
The finish is the best-ever by a freshman in Valencia wrestling’s program history.
“My freshman year I went 1-2 and Alex, he took he took sixth, so he did really, really good,” Trent said. “I’m proud of him. And it’s gonna be awesome me and him going to state together with Braden.”
The Vikings’ Jake Quintana was also at the tournament, wrestling at 132. Quintana was unable to advance to the state level after he lost a 3-2 decision to Cameron Owen of Paloma Valley early on Saturday.
The CIF State meet will be held in Bakersfield at Rabobank Arena on Feb. 27, 28 and 29.
This week’s preparations for the trio will involve staying healthy and making some final adjustments before they compete in California prep wrestling’s biggest event.
“There’s not going to be much conditioning this week because I mean, it’s already been done,” Smelser said. “This whole year it’s been conditioning. So we’re just going to go over our mistakes and get better.”