Nyla Valencia drove her opponent onto the mat within the first six seconds of her opening match in last Saturday’s Blossom Valley League Championships. The Sobrato High super sophomore then grabbed her hapless opponent’s shoulder and used a turk that had her opponent’s body parts twisted like a pretzel. Thirty-five seconds later, the match was over, with Valencia recording a pin.
Sobrato freshman Abbeygael Cabuag also was a picture of focus and ferocity in her tournament run. In Cabuag’s first match, she immediately took down her opponent and started racking up points in bunches, going up 12-0 before recording a pin 43 seconds into the first period. Both Valencia (106 pound weight class) and Cabuag (101 pounds) won individual titles at Evergreen Valley High in what they hope to be harbingers in the upcoming Central Coast Section Championships.
“I’m really excited for CCS,” said Valencia, who is ranked No. 2 in the section in her weight class despite having a resume that includes a first-place finish at the Super 32 and runner-up finishes at the ultra-competitive Pan-Am Cadet Championships and U15Women’s National Championships.
Said Cabuag: “At CCS, I want to be first as well. My coaches have prepared me for that, and I definitely feel I’m better than my ranking. I’m definitely motivated to be No. 1. I don’t care who is ranked ahead of me because I believe everyone is beatable.”
Cabuag is actually ranked fifth in the section in her weight class even though she’s only lost to one wrestler within the section, that being a defeat to Lowell’s Joanna Li early in the season. She was involved in one of the best matches of the BVAL tournament in the 101-pound final against Silver Creek freshman Kelalani Tumale. The two had met one time before, with Cabuag winning 7-4 at the Mid-Cals. The rematch was as good as advertised, with Cabuag prevailing in a back-and-forth contest.
It’s been a banner season for the entire Sobrato wrestling program, as the boys team tied with Prospect for the best record during the BVAL West Valley Division dual meet season. Some of the key standouts include Aidan Butler at 108 pounds, Michael Froess at 115, Tayo Bernal at 122, Andre Fontaine at 128, Alec Argel at 222, Matthew Cristal at heavyweight and senior Jesse Redmond, who took second in the 172-pound title match at the BVAL Championships.
“I felt like I wrestled pretty good, and I want to keep this up going into CCS,” Redmond said. “My goal there is to be the best I can be and get a top three finish to get to the podium. That’s my mission this week.”
Redmond, who is 19-7 on the season and ranked 11th in the section, expressed confidence in being able to place above his rank.
“I know I can beat a lot of these guys,” he said. “The rankings don’t matter until after CCS. I’m hoping to finish strong. I’ve had a lot of good matches, but I felt like there were other matches where I beat myself. This week I’ll be working on my craft—shooters shoot.”
Redmond loves to shoot and scores a lot of his points off shots. He likes to set up his shots and stay aggressive throughout the match.
“That’s where I’m most comfortable,” he said. “I’m going to take a shot, and they’ll have to stop it. But I’m going to keep coming at them.”
Redmond sees a bright future for the program, as Butler and Bernal are freshmen and Froess a sophomore.
“The next couple of years Tayo, Michael and Aidan will take my place as team captain and lead the next generation of guys,” Redmond said. “They’ll make CCS and possibly place. There is a lot of young talent and even though they didn’t do as well as maybe they would have liked in BVALs this year, they showed a lot of heart and wrestled their butts off. That’s all you can ask of them. They showed heart, and they’re wrestling like seniors.”
Redmond, who was also a standout on the football team, still isn’t 100 percent after suffering a foot injury before the start of the football season. However, Redmond said his foot feels better with each passing month, and he expects to be ready for the community college football season starting in September. Redmond credits his development as a wrestler to his older brother, Genaro, who was one of the recent Sobrato wrestlers to win a CCS title in wrestling.
“I give a lot of thanks to my brother for helping out and pushing me,” Jesse said.
Cabuag and Valencia also have terrific coaches to take instruction from. Valencia often trains with the top wrestlers in the nation at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Her dad, Joel, trains Nyla and her brother, Aden, who will attend Sobrato High next year. Cabuag also has high level coaches and training partners, but one person who has been guiding her this season has a special place in her heart: her brother, Christian, who is projected to be one of the section’s best next season after being unable to wrestle this season.
“I always feel confident on the mat and in my abilities, and Christian is there to support me,” she said.
Abbeygael started wrestling because of Christian and their dad. At first, Cabuag was hesitant to join her brother on the mat. However, her dad convinced her to give it a try with no strings attached, and Cabuag eventually grew to love the sport. Now she and Valencia represent the present and future of the program, and one could argue there isn’t a better duo on a high school team in the Bay Area.
They’re training partners in the wrestling room, pushing each other to a higher level. Both wrestlers are athletic, agile, talented and determined to be the best. Valencia has already racked up an impressive resume, having won multiple national titles on the club wrestling circuit. Valencia gets in a zone before every match before methodically breaking down her opponents.
For Valencia, winning the league tournament was a mere formality. She used the event as an opportunity to sharpen her skills, execute well and dominate. A day after winning the league championship, Valencia was on a plane to Colorado to take part in a world camp, where she will practice against some of the top juniors and seniors in the country.
“Next year I’m going to try to make the Senior World team, and this is a chance to show everything I can do,” she said. “It’s great competition because these girls are older and stronger, and wrestling them will make me better.”
Valencia has all the moves, having been trained by Joel since she could basically walk. Her brother, Aden, is a multiple time world champion, and the two support each other in practices and matches. Cabuag learns from all of her matches, especially in losses. After the loss to Li, Cabuag wiped the slate clean and went back to work.
“I definitely learned I have to keep my focus every second of every match,” she said. “My coaches teach me how to correct all my mistakes so I come back stronger.”
NOTE: Sobrato freshman Kevin Knosala was the lone member from the junior varsity team to win an individual BVAL title, in the 122 pound weight class.