Aden Valencia doesn’t hesitate whenever someone asks him what is his ultimate goal in wrestling.
“I want to be an Olympic gold medalist and world champion,” he said. “I plan on being the greatest ever.”
Valencia, who turns 14 years old in August, qualified for the United World Championships this summer in the 15-and-under division in the 34 to 38 kilogram weight class, or the low to mid 80 pound division. Valencia, who has lived in Morgan Hill for five years, is a home-schooled seventh-grader and plans on attending Sobrato High in his freshman year.
Valencia qualified for the world championships in two different disciplines—Greco-Roman and freestyle—after winning the United World Wrestling World National Championships in two divisions in dominating fashion on April 12 to 14 nearby Omaha, Neb. Valencia went a combined 10-0, winning every match by pinfall or technical fall. His “closest” match was a 15-5 technical fall decision, which qualifies more as a dominant win than a competitive match.
“I wanted more competition and was expecting more competition,” he said. “But we’ve been training really hard and all that training really showed. I’m using all of my moves, my transitions were good and I think that is why I was able to be so dominant. But my opponents were all tough, and I respect all of them.”
Since Valencia ran roughshod over the competition, there wasn’t a whole lot of drama in clinching a berth to the world championships. However, he still felt a sense of pride after winning two different disciplines at Nationals.
“There was a little bit of emotion because this is what my parents and I have been training for my whole life,” he said. “Every night my dad (Joel) tells me you’ll be the greatest of all time. I had a lot of emotions when I came off the mat. I wasn’t as happy as I would’ve been if I had closer matches, if there would’ve been a 2-0 match. That would’ve been more exciting and maybe more of a celebration.”
The toughest part of Valencia’s tournament was off the mat, as the tournament had a three-day weigh-in rule, meaning Valencia had to make weight all three days to compete.
“It was kind of brutal,” said Valencia, whose everyday weight is 88 to 89 pounds.
Valencia is chomping at the bit to wrestle in the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in June. Valencia seems precocious for his age, and comes off as supremely confident but not cocky.
“I’m going over there to win obviously,” he said. “I want a gold medal, and I know it’s going to be a great experience with it being my first time at a world level tournament. I’m excited and ready to go.”
Although Valencia’s comments might come off as a bit brash, one has to understand his determination, focus and goals. Joel has trained him to be a champion, and Valencia sets big goals to stay the course and perform at his absolute best. Also, Valencia has the proper perspective of finding purpose in the process of training and the journey.
“Everyone—even the great ones—have lost, so I can’t dwell on that fact if I don’t win,” he said. “I’m going to Budapest to come back a world champion, but if I don’t win, that also can be a good thing and benefit. It means I have work to do, and it would be a real big learning experience. I’ll know what I’m up for, and know what road I’ll need to continue to go on.”
It’s been a while since Valencia last lost a match—17 months, in fact. That was in the in the folkstyle division. The loss was the best thing that could’ve happened to Valencia, as he used that defeat to come back stronger than ever.
“I learned I can’t sit on the bottom in a folk style match,” he said. “The problem in that match is I didn’t escape. Every loss I’ve had happened because I couldn’t escape from the bottom. We really improved my bottom game after that.”
Valencia incorporates his strong judo background into wrestling, especially in Greco-Roman where Valencia uses his strength and speed to unleash effective and powerful throws.
“In Greco-Roman, all of it is throwing, so I have a huge advantage there,” he said. “I believe my best (discipline) is Greco-Roman, but my favorite is definitely freestyle.”
Valencia wrestles out of the Amateur Wrestling Academy (AWA) club in Gilroy and is coached by Armando Gonzalez, Armando Gonzalez Jr. and Joel. Valencia started wrestling when he was 3 ½ years old, competing in tournaments when he was 4 and matching up against older kids from the get-go. He also grew up playing ice hockey and reached the Triple-A level, a high-tier division at the traveling youth level.
However, Valencia quit ice hockey within the last six months so he could focus on maximizing his seemingly enormous potential as a wrestler. Valencia knew he had to make that decision, as it’s tough to travel for tournaments in one sport, let alone two.
“Hockey was a huge part of my life, but it was so hectic with the travel,” he said. “There were times I would be gone all four weekends of a month, so I’d come back to the house for a few days, pack my stuff and be gone again. I was on the road more than I was at home sometimes. I miss all my friends from the hockey team, but I’m glad I have more time for wrestling, myself and my family.”
Valencia’s favorite athletes include legendary wrestlers Dan Gable and Buvaisar Saitev, Gable for being a great champion and overcoming adversity and Saitev for his immense skills. However, Valencia’s greatest influence has been his dad.
“My dad has been fantastic, and he’s really shaped me as a person,” Aden said. “He is awesome.”