Bringing the Payne: Valencia wrestler wins at Highland tournament  

Valencia High School wrestler Evan Payne won his bracket and earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Highland Tournament. Courtesy photo.
Valencia High School wrestler Evan Payne won his bracket and earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Highland Tournament. Courtesy photo.
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Vikings finish with two champions in final tournament before postseason  

“No pain, no gain” is a phrase often tossed around in the sports world to indicate needing to suffer before accomplishing something. 

Valencia sophomore Evan Payne may not have been feeling the pain himself, but he certainly gained from it as he won his bracket at the Highland Tournament held this past weekend at Highland High School in Bakersfield. 

Payne, wrestling at 144 pounds, also earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler award, a significant accomplishment for someone who has only been wrestling for a little over a year, Valencia head coach Brian Peterson said. 

“He’s progressing at an amazing rate, so that’s really nice to see,” Peterson said in a phone interview with The Signal. 

Payne pinned all of his opponents in the first period en route to his title finish. 

Valencia also saw senior Alex Lopez win the 175-pound bracket, racking up three pins and a technical fall in the process. Lopez has been dealing with an ankle injury, according to Peterson, and showed that he might be getting healthy with the postseason coming up in less than two weeks. 

“I think he’s healing up,” Peterson said, “and I think with the next two weeks, we don’t have anything this weekend and league championships is the following weekend, so it should be enough time for him to heal up.” 

Other notable finishes for Valencia include junior Henry Egami taking second at 157 pounds, junior Denicio Diaz taking third at 120 pounds and freshman David Mendoza placing fourth at 132 pounds. 

Diaz was wrestling at a varsity tournament for the first time, Peterson said, and showed that he may be someone to look out for in the coming weeks. Diaz had won a junior varsity tournament the previous weekend, leading Peterson to try him out with the varsity squad. 

“We moved him up to varsity to give him a shot and he performed pretty well,” Peterson said. “He’s still new, but he performed well so I was happy for him.” 

The Vikings will now rest up this weekend before taking part in the Coastal Canyon League finals scheduled to be held at Camarillo High School on Feb. 3. Valencia wrestlers will be taking on opponents from Camarillo, Royal High School, Simi Valley High School and Moorpark High School. 

Valencia finished third in the league this year with a 2-2 record. Camarillo won the league, finishing 4-0. 

Peterson is hopeful to have quite a few wrestlers qualify for the CIF Southern Section Divisional Championships, scheduled to be held Feb. 9 and 10. He’s looking for Payne and Lopez to continue their hot streaks, while Slater Hicks, Dayle Cailles, Eddie Avila, Henry Egami, Justin Campos and Jairdan Chopra will also look to advance. 

“We’re going to be wrestling them hard, a lot of conditioning this week, and then next week we’ll taper down and hit league,” Peterson said. 

Trinity Classical Academy sophomore Hudson Sweitzer, who trains with Peterson and has won his last two tournaments, is also looking to enter into the Southern Section postseason, though Peterson was unsure if the freelance wrestler will automatically be entered or if he will have to go through a qualification process. 

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