Valley Center’s wrestling team is much more important to coach Brian Shelton than individual success. That is the reason the Hornets have competed in three regular-season duals and three dual tournaments, winning every one.
“We’re a good dual team, that makes me happy because we have to work together so we have a team concept, not a bunch of individuals doing their own thing,” Shelton said. “We like to win as a team a lot more than win by individuals.”
Every one of Shelton’s assistant coaches wrestled at Valley Center or coached with Shelton before. It’s all a part of the family atmosphere he has helped create.
“We have kids that have grown up in this community, grown up in the system, they trust in me enough to buy into our system and everyone’s working together,” Shelton said.
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Competing in duals is not only about team performance, opportunities to improve individually exist with the guaranteed matches duals offer.
“The more matches you have, the more chances you have to make mistakes, the more mistakes you have the more chances you have to improve,” Shelton said. “The key to duals is to get bonus points when you can and never give up any. Sometimes your job in a dual is not to win, it’s not to get beat very bad.”
Valley Center is led by a group of seniors that worked through the program, starting on junior varsity. Senior Chad Blair is undefeated at 182, as well as Luke Weldon at 220. Josh Ortiz’s work ethic at 152 also helps lead the team.
Trying to bounce back — After losing talent from its second-place state finish last season, Heights depended on a few key wrestlers to carry the team this year.
“We’re trying to find our identity, we’re trying to step up and see who’s going to step up and be vocal and lead with performance,” Heights coach Mike Church said.
One of those wrestlers, junior Forlanda Parker, broke his ankle at a tournament two weeks ago, making the search for a leader more difficult.
“He would be a tournament placer every single week and win out in duals, but he led by example,” Church said. “He came in every day and led by how hard he worked, he was always on time, that’s exactly what you wanted.”
Despite a lot of young wrestlers on the team, Heights is 2-1 in City League duals. Returning 106-pound state champion Sean Deshazer is a consistent competitor for Heights at 113. Armond McCray is improving for the Falcons at 120, and Greg Jones is currently ranked third in the state at 126.
“We’ve had some high spots and we’ve had some low spots. We’re young and trying to build an identity in this sport is hard,” Church said. “It’s about trying to build an attitude and culture towards one common goal, and our goal is to have that completed by February in the state tournament.”
Northwest at North dual — The top two teams in the City League will dual Thursday at North for the first time this season. Northwest, the defending champion and fifth-ranked 6A team in the state, is 3-0 so far this season in duals, while North, tied for second in the City League with Kapaun, is 3-1 in duals.