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Valencia wrestling team ready to hit the mat

Posted: July 27, 2014 9:19 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2014 9:19 p.m.

Wrestling instructor Brian Peterson, center, works with wrestlers during a practice at Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Academy.

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With the start of Valencia’s first wrestling season coming up in November, head coach Brian Peterson and assistant coach Felicia Oh are hard at work with all the typical chores that go along with getting a startup program off the ground.

Whether it be completing the schedule or filling out the roster, they have their hands full.

But Peterson isn’t worried. In fact, he feels pretty good about what the future holds for the Valencia High wrestling team.

“We have no idea how many kids will come out but we’ve gotten a lot of interest just by word of mouth,” Peterson said. “I would guess that we should have a minimum of 12 guys on the team, and that’s if everything goes really bad. Once we get the word out, we should have about 20 kids on the team. From our club alone I can count at least six.”

Peterson’s experience as a coach for the wrestling club at Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy in Valencia, as well as his time coaching wrestling at the Channel Islands and Oxnard high schools, makes him the ideal person to head up the program.

Oh was an assistant at Oxnard as well.

Now the two have the opportunity to build a program from the ground up.

That foundation is going to be pretty strong as Peterson and Oh are expecting some of their students from the wrestling club at the training academy to be on the team.

“We have some individuals with quite a bit of experience. Even though it’s our first year, it’s not your typical startup program,” said Oh. “We have kids that have been wrestling for several years at a high level. Our goal is to set that bar at a high level for them.”

One of the kids expected to make an immediate impact is incoming freshman Chance Rich. Earlier in June he took third place in the 105-pound weight class in the California State Freestyle Championship tournament, his best ever finish.

“I’m happy that they’re making a team,” Rich said. “A lot of the guys from the gym will be on the team so that’s exciting. I’m ready to focus really hard and get ready for the tournaments.”

Valencia will be competing as part of the Freelance League where they’ll compete in various open tournaments but most likely won’t participate in any dual meets.

At the end of the season they will compete in the Freelance League tournament where individual winners will get a chance to qualify for the CIF tournament.

“Since we don’t compete in a regular league, we can’t make any runs as far as a team goes,” said Peterson. “We’ll have to focus on individual success. We’ll have four or five guys who I think could place in the CIF championship the first year. So my goal is to get those four or five guys and get them qualified for CIF competition. They don’t know what it’s like to wrestle in high school but they’re confident.”

While Peterson and Oh have a core group they know they can wrestle well, they’ll also be faced with the challenge of teaching wrestling to athletes with little to no experience with the sport.

“Most kids, when they think about wrestling, are thinking about professional wrestling,” said Peterson. “In a lot of other sports kids know the basic rules just by watching it on TV, but that’s not necessarily the case with wrestling.”

“So we’ll have to teach them. It’s kind of like teaching a kid how to walk. We may get some great athletes but it’s not just going out there and tackling someone. It’ll be a challenge but I’m looking forward to it.”

With only a few months to go before the season starts, Peterson and Oh still have plenty of work to be done.

Peterson said expects the team’s final schedule will be finalized in September or October.

And with the roster still somewhat up in the air, how these last months before competition start will be crucial to the program.

But no matter what, Peterson and Oh are optimistic about what lies ahead and what it could mean for the future of wrestling in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“It’s a beginning,” said Oh. “Some of the kids in the program might have little brothers that see how fun it is and hopefully it spreads and other schools jump on board. We want to grow that in the community.”

For more information about the program, email vhswrestlingscv@gmail.com.

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