Sixteen-year-old Zahid Valencia was dejected last March after losing in the state semifinals to Sean Williams. It’s a moment Valencia calls the biggest disappointment of his high school career.
It was new territory for Valencia who was forced to deal with the first loss of his high school career.
“For the first couple of days it (stunk) and I just hated it,” Valencia said. “I knew there were greater things than just state so I just got a positive attitude and knowing that there’s other stuff I could accomplish.
“I was shocked because I beat the kid four times earlier that season. I didn’t think he was going to beat me but stuff happens … I think I might have been a little too overconfident.”
The rising junior then did what he always does — he went to work. The next day Valencia, one of the top prep wrestlers in the country, was back training. Some four months later, he had an opportunity to show his resolve in Fargo, N.D. With last season’s loss as a form of motivation, Valencia made it back-to-back national championships in freestyle wrestling at 126 pounds last week at the 2013 ASICS/Vaughan Cadet and Junior National Championships.
He also upped the ante by doubling as a national champion in Greco-Roman as well.
“I was really motivated,” Valencia said. “I knew this would put me back on top if I won this, so I really wanted to win it.
“There was a lot of good kids. It’s a long tournament but you just got to stay with the routine and do everything right.”
With a 90-1 record at St. John Bosco, Valencia has spent the first two seasons of his high school career practically doing everything right. His resume became even more impressive after returning from North Dakota with two more national championships.
It’s all a part of a plan he and his family have been working on since he was two years old and his older brother, Anthony, a All-American wreslter as well, was three-years-old when they started wrestling under the watchful eye of their father, Ruben.
“My sons and the entire family sacrifice and work extremely diligent to achieve goals (in wrestling),” Ruben Valencia said.
The family plan and subsequent success of his sons on the mat has made Ruben popular. People want to know how do they do it?
“I want to get my boys like your sons,” Ruben hears often from inquisitive dads.
To which he replies, “Is the whole family on board? Is your wife on board?”
The answer he normally gets is a plan that involves the husband primarily involved in the kids’ wrestling endeavors and the wife taking a backseat.
“No you don’t understand,” Ruben fires back. “When you’re waking up little Johnny at 4 a.m. for his first workout and the next workout is at 6 p.m., is your wife going to say ‘What are you doing to my baby?'”
In the case of the Valencia’s it really is a family affair. Anthony and Zahid train with one another. Ruben makes sure the boys have access to the best coaches they can get and mom, Mercedes, is an avid supporter despite being “a little nervous” sometimes, Zahid said.
“She just always screams and she’s always shaking when she’s in the stands,” Zahid Valencia said describing his mom.
Still, mom very much plays a role in what has allowed the Valencia’s to have major success on the mat. Success they hope continues for years to come.
The goal is to be the best. Period.
“They want to be world and Olympic champions,” Ruben said of his sons. “We didn’t get into this to be recreational.”