St. John Bosco coach finds fountain of youth

St. John Bosco wrestling coach Omar Delgado is a changed man
these days. He’s in his 17th year on the job, but he’s been reinvigorated.

He has two dynamic freshmen to thank for it.  

One “looks like a cross country runner,” Delgado said.

The other is his “silent assassin.”

They’re the Valencia brothers: Zahid, 14, and Anthony, 15. They are the top
wrestlers in the state in their respective weight classes — Zahid at 106 pounds
and Anthony at 126.  

Last week they each won a CIF Southern Section Coastal Division Championship.
It marked the first time in school history two freshmen won CIF titles in the
same year. Both will be competing at the CIF Southern Section-Ford Masters’
Meet beginning on Thursday. Zahid has an opening-round bye, while Anthony will
take on Alfredo Sanchez of Santa Paula in an opening match.

The two-day meet will be streamed live right here on
FOXSportsWest.com from Temecula Valley High School. The top nine finishers in
each of the 14 weight classes will earn qualification for the CIF State
Championship Tournament in Bakersfield on March 2-3.

The Valencia’s have taken the wrestling world by storm. Zahid is undefeated at
29-0 and considered the top pound-for-pound freshman in the country. He pinned
North Torrance’s Johnson Mai in a preseason match. He also defeated Mai in the
semifinals of the Walsh Ironman Tournament in Ohio. Mai, a senior, is a
defending state champion who has committed to Columbia.  

Anthony (34-3) won both the Doc Buchanan Invitational Tournament and Temecula’s
Battle for the Belt. He also had a top-10 finish at the Walsh Ironman
Tournament.  

Their success has been a shock to just about everybody except themselves.

“I’ve always wanted to do what I’ve been doing right now, so it’s not a big
surprise because this is what we’ve been working for,” Zahid said.  

Anthony added, “That’s what we’ve been working for our whole lives, 12 years
now.  That was our goal since we were smaller, so we knew this was going
to happen.”

Zahid and Anthony, who’ve been wrestling since they were 2 and 3 years old
respectively, have been difference makers for the St. John Bosco program.

“I told (St. John Bosco boys basketball) coach (Derrick) Taylor, ‘you know what
these two guys are to me and my wrestling program? They are the equivalent of
two 7-footers on your basketball team.’ This is how huge these guys are,” Delgado
said.  

The grind of the wrestling season has weighed on Delgado, but his freshmen have
excited the coach.   

“This is such a sport that is so fatiguing mentally and physically and it just
drains you because you’re always working so hard every week,” Delgado said.
“When you’re doing it for so long, if you don’t have guys like this, sometimes
it gets a little old and these kids, they just brought me back to what it’s all
about. …

“I’ve had guys that were good but these two boys are so
special and they re-energized me and the program.”

Delgado has won three CIF titles and was a runner-up three times, but he’s yet
to win a state title during his 17 years at the helm. With the Valencia’s, the
elusive state championship could be reached.   

“We’re on our way to, hopefully next year, doing some really great things with
these kids and the kids that are returning,” Delgado said. “Hopefully (we’ll)
make a run at a state title which is a dream that I have for the team, and
really the goal that I’ve set for myself as the coach. They’ve really inspired
me to set some high goals for our program.”

Before he can start planning for the 2012-13 campaign, Delgado will have five
members of his St. John Bosco wrestling squad at the Masters’ Meet this
weekend. (Click
here
to watch the Masters’ Meet).  Four of them will be returning next
season.