All out: Wrestling standout Valney named South Tahoe Boys Athlete of the Year after historic season
Michael Valney admits he isn’t the most physically imposing athlete. The South Tahoe senior’s work ethic before and after the whistle, however, looms large on both the mat and the gridiron.
“Everyone sees it when I wrestle or play football. It’s all heart for me — I’m not the biggest kid, I’m not the toughest kid, but I’m all heart,” Valney said. “When it comes to sports, I’ll pour my heart and soul into it.”
Valney was named STHS Boys Outstanding Athlete of the Year for 2015-16 during a ceremony June 1. The two-sport athlete earned the award chosen by school administrators largely based on a historic wrestling season that ended just shy of a Div. I-A State championship at 132 pounds.
“It was amazing,” Valney said of his senior campaign. “Being able to be the guy that the coaches look to and say, ‘You know what you have to do in this match, so go out there and do it’ — it just made the season fun.”
On the mat, Valney finished state runner-up after a two-point loss in the title match. Along the way, he delivered the Vikings’ first-ever regional championship and set South Tahoe’s single-season takedown record with 221.
“Everything he does is all out and he finally put everything all together. It was still all out 100 percent, but it was a controlled all out,” Vikings coach Sean Griffis said. “He was a smarter, more technical wrestler — and his pace and relentless style is what kept him dominating throughout the year.”
Valney said his favorite moment of the season came at the Div. I-A Northern League dual meet, when he beat defending state champion Anthony Chavez of Spring Creek in a thrilling double overtime victory. The following weekend, he beat Chavez again en route to regional gold — and topped the podium in historic fashion along with teammate Andrew Herrera.
“That’s a memory that is going to stick with me forever,” Valney said of the regional title.
In his fourth year on varsity, Valney enjoyed a breakout senior season. Dedicating the last two summers to the sport he loves — including two weeks at the J Robinson Intensive Wrestling Camp in 2015 — ultimately took him to a different level.
“While kids were going to the beach and having fun, I was training,” Valney said. “I was still having fun, but the dedication for the sport that I was so in love with really set me apart.”
During football season, Valney played linebacker for the Vikings listed at 5 feet seven inches tall and 140 pounds. That size disadvantage meant he had to play with a sense of fearlessness during a campaign he called “amazing.”
“When I see a 250-pound guy coming at me all I’m thinking is that I better hit him before he hits me or I’m going to be on my butt,” Valney said. “Being big is important, but having heart is more important.”
Valney is currently working construction and training for the USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet National Championships, which will be held July 16-23 in Fargo, North Dakota. Next fall Valney will attend Sierra College, where he will wrestle and plans to join the fire academy.
“It proves to me that all my hard work has paid off,” Valney said of the award. “Other athletes that may have been more athletic than me but may not have had the determination I did to go through all the stuff that I went through — it’s exhilarating to see that.”