The Sobrato High wrestling team is set to have its greatest season in program history. The Bulldogs have several section and state-ranked athletes, and, barring some unforeseen circumstances, should fulfill the promise of their lofty preseason rankings.
On the girls side, Sobrato returns state champion Nyla Valencia, who won the 106-pound title as a sophomore two years ago, the last time the CIF State Championships were held (there was an unofficial state meet last March). Valencia is the daughter of coach Joel Valencia, and she’s done nothing but improve since winning state two seasons ago.
How good is Valencia? Only an injury or illness will prevent her from repeating as a state champ, either at 106 or at 111 pounds. Junior Abbeygael Cabuag could give the girls team a historic second state champ in the same season if she can prevail at 101 pounds.
In her freshman year, Cabuag took third in the Central Coast Section Championships and eighth at the state meet. However, much like Valencia, Cabuag is a tireless worker and has made tremendous improvement in the last few years.
“She’s significantly better than she was as a freshman,” Joel said. “The maturity piece is really clear. The top freshmen are hungry and they want to win, but they’re not always poised and don’t always make the best decision—my son included. Sometimes the best person doesn’t win because of the chess match that happens in a match. I think Abbey is a better chess player this time around.”
Joel’s son, Aden, is a top-ranked national wrestler just like his sister Nyla. But due to Covid, his freshman high school season was basically a wash. However, Aden has been busy on the national circuit competing in several high-profile tournaments, including the Super 32, an event that features future NCAA, world and Olympic champions.
Valencia lost a narrow decision, 3-2, in the Super 32 120-pound championship match to Nathanael Jesuroga, who is a year older than Valencia and is committed to Iowa, one of the top college programs in the country. Valencia has jumped up two weight classes in the last 18 months, during which time he actually lost a couple of matches.
Even then, Valencia came back each time and continues to improve and stay on track of reaching his goal of competing for the U.S. Olympic team in 2028.
“He’s grown into the weight and he’s making jumps in improvement every week,” Joel said.
Sobrato’s boys team is stacked, with a lineup bolstered by Valencia, sophomore Clemente Holguin, senior Ezekiel Lara and senior Michael Froess. Holguin is ranked fourth in the CCS and 28th in the state at 145 pounds. Like Valencia, Holguin doesn’t have a high school resume because the Covid spring season limited his freshman year competitions.
However, Holguin is the real deal, having trained with Aden since they were 5 years old. Joel said Holguin scrambles well, is long, has great mat awareness and a ton of experience.
“I can’t see a world where Clemente doesn’t make the CCS Finals and place at state,” Joel said. “I know he’s very talented, but I don’t know where he is against the state field per se. I would think top eight in the state.”
Lara is ranked No. 1 in the section and 21st in the state at 152 pounds. The Evergreen Valley-transfer has shown a lot of promise and looks to put it all together for a strong league and section championship run.
“If he were to win CCS, that would be awesome,” Valencia said. “He’s definitely capable of it.”
Froess, a senior, is ranked No. 6 at 138 pounds and is a difference-maker in the wrestling room.
“I love Michael, he’s a great kid,” Valencia said. “He’s an awesome team player, drills really well and has a lot of potential. I’m hoping he can place in CCS and earn his ticket to the state meet. He just has to show up on that day and let it fly.”
Sobrato opens the season with a dual meet against Evergreen Valley on Jan. 5 before competing in the Jim Root Tournament the following weekend.
“Right now we’re just getting better and I like what we’re seeing in the room,” Valencia said. “We’ll have a full lineup which is really nice. I think it’s going to be a fun year with a lot of surprises. The kids are working hard behind the scenes, grinding away and this will be their time to shine as if to say, ‘Hey, look what I’ve been doing.’ It’s an exciting time.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.