Aden Valencia’s place in Sobrato High wrestling continues to be one for the record books. The junior became the first boys wrestler in Bulldogs’ history to win two Central Coast Section titles when he defeated Gilroy High’s Daniel Zepeda 1-0 in the 132-pound final on Feb. 18 at Watsonville High.
Now Valencia looks to become the first Sobrato boy to win a CIF State Championship, where he took third at 126 pounds last year. Valencia’s older sister, Nyla, won a state title in 2020.
“I’m feeling good, I’m feeling ready to go and pick up that state title,” said Valencia, a Stanford University-commit.
Valencia will have one teammate—freshman Tommy Holguin—join him at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield, site of the CIF State Championships Feb. 23-25. Holguin earned his way in with a dominant win in the third-place match, a 17-2 technical fall over Hollister’s Arthur Parra.
Other than a loss to second-place Mark Justin Ramirez in the semifinals, Holguin was strong, winning three of his five matches by technical fall and the other by major decision. The future looks downright rosy for Holguin, who earned the No. 10 seed at State while Valencia got the top seed in his weight class as expected.
Valencia’s match with Zepeda was fraught with drama, a white-knuckle contest that pitted the top two ranked wrestlers in the state. This was the third meeting between the standouts this season, and the closest.
Zepeda won the first meeting, 6-4, at the Doc Buchanan Invite Jan. 7. Valencia dominated the rematch in the CCS Southern Regional final, 8-0, on Feb. 11. In the Masters Final, Valencia scored the only point of the match on an escape in the second period.
Then, in an impressive display of strength, technique and determination, Valencia kept Zepeda in bottom position for the entire third period, never allowing him to escape to tie the match.
“Once again my top [position] came in the clutch,” said Valencia, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler for the lower weights. “Top wrestling wins in big matches and the ability to ride somebody and not give up that point is really important. Getting off the bottom, getting that extra point, looked sharp on my feet [all were good things]. I was a little rusty on my finishes; they just weren’t quite there. But I can clean those up for the next match [at State] and widen the gap a little bit.”
Valencia pointed to a lost opportunity to score a takedown early in the match as something he can refine at State.
“The first sweep, specifically, I was in deep,” he said. “Scoring that takedown really changes the momentum of that match. Those are two critical points right there. But I made the mistake of reaching to the waist. I gave that up and gave him a fresh start. So it’s still 0-0 in the first period and changes the dynamics of the match.”
If the seeds hold true at State, Valencia and Zepeda would meet for a fourth time this season as Valencia is the top seed and Zepeda No. 2 and in the opposite bracket.