South Tahoe wrestling’s Valney, Herrera claim gold at Armijo Invitational, six compete for Vikings
FAIRFIELD, Calif. — The South Tahoe wrestling team had come up short of the gold in its last three appearances at the Armijo Invitational. A pair of Vikings standouts ended that drought Jan. 16 in the 44th-annual edition of the tournament hosted by Armijo High.
Senior Michael Valney and junior Andrew Herrera each claimed gold at the tournament. Valney was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler after early-round dominance and a victory over No. 1 seed and hometown favorite Ryan Ortiz of Armijo.
“We thought he was in line for the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at a few of the other tournaments he won,” Vikings coach Sean Griffis said. “In this one there was no doubt — he earned it.”
After wins via pin over Northern California opponents from Stagg (Stockton), Cesar Chavez (Stockton) and Amador Valley (Pleasanton), Valney met Ortiz on the mat. In a matchup between standout wrestlers, there was no feeling-out process.
Valney opened the scoring with a takedown that was immediately reversed by Ortiz. The South Tahoe grappler escaped within seconds and nearly had two more first-period takedowns, only to have Ortiz scramble out of bounds each time.
Valney led 3-2 after the first round, and had an 8-6 advantage following a second round that featured a pair of reversals from each wrestler. The Viking ended the second round with a last-second escape to stay on top.
Ortiz started the third round in the bottom position seeking an escape, and got one with less than a minute remaining. That move made it a one-point match, but Valney stayed calm and countered a desperation takedown attempt late to finish with a 10-7 victory.
“I tried to wrestle like that was my last match ever,” Valney said. “I could hear (the home crowd), they really wanted him to win, but I don’t think about stuff like that during a match. I just go to work.”
“Coaching Valney is fun,” Vikings JV coach Ryan Wallace added. “He understands the mental aspects of the sport at an incredibly high level. He is no longer wrestling against an opponent. He is now using each match to conquer a lesser version of himself.”
Herrera had a more straightforward path to the top of the podium at Armijo. The junior thrashed Amador Valley’s Jon Robert 12-3 in the finals following three lopsided results. He outscored three opponents by a combined margin of 27-5, with each match ending before the three-minute mark.
“Against strong kids I use fast, low attacks,” Herrera said. “I go super hard, then I look at coach Ryan to see when I have worked enough to go for a pin.”
“We discuss and design the perfect day after weigh-ins, then he makes it materialize,” Wallace added.
Freshman Jose Leon continued to defy logic with another consistent performance at the invitational. Leon won a third-place medal and finished 4-1, with his only blemish a 6-4 loss to eventual champion Michael Vanloom of Davis (Calif.).
“Every coach wants a kid who works like Jose,” Griffis said. “Most freshman have good days and bad days — Jose is good every day.”
Senior Blair Binns and freshman Kody Griffis each went 1-2 at the tournament. Skyler Bledsoe went winless in two matches.
“We have become a close family, every one of us had a great day, and we all take pleasure in each other’s growth and accomplishments,” Wallace said. “I love everything about this team.”
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