Wrestling: Kent-Meridian’s Valdez on the fast track

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  • BY Wire Service
  • Friday, February 6, 2009 1:17pm
  • Sports
Kent-Meridian junior Jesus Valdez is one of the top 103-pounders in the South Puget Sound League North Division.

Kent-Meridian junior Jesus Valdez is one of the top 103-pounders in the South Puget Sound League North Division.

Jesus Valdez is a quick learner — partly because he has to be, but also because he wants to be.

When it comes to Kent-Meridian’s 103-pound wrestling standout, speed and quickness is the name of the game, whether it be in the fall on the cross country trails, in the winter on the mat or in the spring on the track oval.

Pick a season and Valdez will be there. And he’ll be moving at a fast rate, too.

“There aren’t too many (three-sport athletes) around,” said Valdez, a junior who excels in all three. “I like to stay busy. I can’t sit still. I come home early at the end of spring and I don’t have anything to do. I really like all sports.”

In this day of athletic specialization, Valdez has become a bit of an anomaly. And he excels in the classroom as much as he does on the trails, mat and track.

Go to any area school, and three-sport athletes are about as extraordinary as mid-November afternoons without rain.

Then again, Valdez is extraordinary in lots of ways. He sports a nifty 3.5 grade-point average, has a strong desire to be a coach someday, and wants to earn a degree in history.

He also has a soft spot for movies such as “Titanic” and “Fever Pitch,” which he refers to as being “sentimental.”

Extraordinary is something Valdez will have to be this weekend during the South Puget Sound League North Division sub-district wrestling tournament in his home gym at Kent-Meridian. For if there’s one weight class that has the potential to stand out above the rest, it’s Valdez’ 103-pound bracket. It’s filled with state quality talent, and only the top five advance to next week’s regionals, which will be at Auburn High.

“It’s pretty deep this year,” Tahoma coach Chris Feist said of the bevy of talent at 103. “We have (Kentwood’s Ruben) Navejas ... Colton Marlowe (of Kentlake) ... Steve Chacko (of Auburn). We’re seeing some experience and skill at that weight class.”

And Valdez?

“He’s just tough as hell,” Feist continued. “It’s rare that you have that much depth, strength and talent at the lighter group.”

Five of the state’s top Class 4A 103-pounders call the SPSL North their home. It makes today’s sub-district that much more of a gauntlet to traverse.

But for Valdez, today’s tournament is about more than just getting through to regionals. It’s about taking stock of where he stacks up with the local competition, and preparing for the road ahead.

“It’s definitely really tough just within our league,” admitted the lightning-quick Valdez, who also has a passion for baseball and played football growing up.

“But it’s good to get ready and see good competition early on. I think all those guys are really tough guys. We can all place at state.”

Which is precisely one of Valdez’ primary goals in two weeks at the Tacoma Dome. But getting there won’t be easy despite the fact that the K-M standout took eighth at the state a year ago and is a two-time Mat Classic qualifier.

Standing in his way this weekend will be Kentwood’s Navejas, who enters the tournament with a 29-2 record and who took fifth at state in 2008. Valdez was one of the few wrestlers in the league to challenge Navejas last year, dropping a 6-2 decision at sub-district.

“(Navejas) is really tough and fundamentally sound,” said Valdez, who took up cross country as a freshman two years ago and has had nearly the same success in that sport, earning a district berth this past fall.

But he has other goals as well, like becoming K-M’s first state champion since Chris Smith bagged the 130-pound title in 2001.

“Ever since I was a freshman, (a state title) has been a goal,” Valdez said.

As quick of learner as Valdez has become, the possibility is real. For now, however, it’s all a matter of getting through this weekend.

Not just because he has to.

Because he wants to.

SPSL NORTH WRESTLING

• WHAT: Sub-regional wrestling tournament.

• WHEN: The championship round is slated for 4:30 p.m. today.

• WHERE: Kent-Meridian High.

• ADMISSION: Students with ASB, $4 for half day (Friday), $6 for full day, $8 for tournament pass; Adults $7 for half day (Friday), $11 for full day, $14 for tournament pass; Elementary school students $2 for half day (Friday), $3 for full day (Saturday), $4 for tournament pass; Senior citizens $2 for half day (Friday), $3 for full day (Saturday), $4 for tournament pass.

• AT STAKE: Regional berths. The top five wrestlers in each weight class advance to the regional tournament, slated for next Saturday at Auburn High.

— Erick Walker/The Reporter


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