Sobrato High wrestling standouts Aden and Nyla Valencia virtually do everything together when it comes to getting prepared during the long season.
From training sessions on the mat to getting in a grueling workout in the weight room, they’re in the same building no matter what.
The two siblings accomplished something else together that was very special in the Central Coast Section Wrestling Championships on Feb. 18-19 in front of a packed house in the Watsonville High School gymnasium.
Aden, a sophomore, and Nyla, a senior, both went undefeated with an unblemished 4-0 record en route to championship medals in their respective weight divisions.
“It’s awesome to see the results,” Aden said. “It wouldn’t be the same if only I came out with a positive outcome. I’m glad that she was able to do the same.”
Aden dominated in his 126-pound division finals match with a 22-5 technical fall victory against Bellarmine Prep senior Jaden Felipe, while Nyla snuck past Menlo-Atherton junior Kiely Tabaldo in a 5-4 decision for her 111-pound division title.
“Our successes are each other’s and I’m extremely proud of him as he is for me,” Nyla said. “I think our goals are to go and win state together…we have the same mindset going into our matches and we’re both trying to achieve the same goals. Really being able to push each other and encourage each other is the best. It’s really fostered a positive relationship between us.”
Nyla said she was prepared for her CCS finals match and knew what to expect from Tabaldo, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the 112-pound division, according to Team USA Wrestling website.
It was their first meeting on the mat, but Nyla said she set up a strong game plan going into the match. She mentioned that she was a bit conservaitive but that was the purpose of the match.
“Overall, this is my senior year and I’m super excited,” she said. “I wanted to end my high school career on a high note, especially since I’m going to be going to college next year.”
Nyla, who recently committed to the University of Iowa, is the No. 3-ranked 106-pounder nationally by USA Wrestling. She won the CIF State Girls Championship as a sophomore in 2020 and last March won USA Wrestling’s High School National Recruiting Showcase.
There’s a high possibility that Nyla and Tabaldo will meet again at the state tournament. So, the plan for now is going back and creating a new game plan, while improving her skills for some upcoming tough matches.
“I can almost guarantee that she’s going to come back stronger than ever, for sure,” Nyla said.
Also on the girls’ team, junior Abbeygael Cabuag (101 pounds) won her finals match in a 4-3 decision over Evergreen Valley sophomore Madison Heinzer. Like Nyla, Cabuag is a force and continues to improve. She’ll join the Valencias on their way to the CIF State Championships, which takes place this week at Mechanical Bank Arena in Bakersfield.
On the boys side, sophomore Clemente Holguin (145) won his finals match in an 8-1 decision against Los Gatos junior Anthony Ramirez. He also earned an automatic state berth to the championships. Holguin is a serious up-and-comer and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him medal at state.
Ezekiel Lara, a senior, came up short in his 152-pound division finals match after a tough 1-0 loss to Gilroy High junior Micah Porter. But, despite the loss he also punched his ticket to this week’s state championships.
Aden earned a bye in the opening round and went on to pin Carlmont’s Christopher Hojo in 30 seconds for the second-round win. Valencia pinned Osmar Hernandez of Cupertino in 1 minute, 17 seconds in the quarterfinals and won by injury default over Gilroy High’s Daniel Zepeda in the semis.
“I’m always ready to go, always ready to get in a scrap,” Aden said. “It wasn’t the most competitive final match, but even when you got a guy that you can destroy you gotta go out there expecting a one-point match, deep waters.”
Aden said he’s been refining his skills throughout the season and has used several different techniques along with various new moves.
“I was just trying them out there, feeling good, my movement was good,” he said. “I had a couple of nice trips and throws, complementing my judo. It’s really fun.”
The only person that wasn’t having fun was Felipe, who kept getting thrown to the ground by some of Aden’s quick one-arm tosses and sneaky leg grabs for takedowns.
After the match, Aden took it upon himself to do sprints up and down the stairs on the bleachers.
“I didn’t get punished today,” he said. “Everyday you gotta get punished a little bit and so that was that.”
Aden said that work ethic comes from watching some of his favorite collegiate wrestlers going through rigorous routines during a tournament.
“I remember watching that and saying there’s no way that guy is not going to be a national champion,” he said. “I took some stuff off of that… it worked out for me.”
Aden said he plans to move up a weight class in the CIF State Championships, especially because he’s been growing a lot in the past two years. He mentioned that he could easily go into a weight division in the 120s, but he’s thrilled to see what awaits him at the next level.
“I could’ve easily gone in the 120s and ran through the bracket but I’m excited to get some tough competitors and get after it,” he said.
Aden said it would be great to earn that gold medal at the CIF State Championships and a possible national title. But the main goal continues to be a world champion and stay on track to compete for the U.S. Olympic team in 2028.
“I want to see state [championships] along the way, national titles along the way but world [championships] is really what I’m after, Rome 2022,” he said.