Not long after making history by winning two gold medals in freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling in the World Combat Games in Budapest, Hungary on June 18-19, Morgan Hill’s Aden Valencia viewed those accomplishments as if they were in the rearview mirror.
“Right now I’m taking it as if I haven’t won anything,” said Valencia, who is home schooled and is planning on enrolling at Sobrato High for the 2020-2021 school year. “I’m still training hard as if I’m chasing the same goal (of winning worlds).”
It’s readily apparent the 13-year-old Valencia possesses physical and mental attributes more befitting of a professional athlete than someone who hasn’t even started high school yet. Perhaps that’s why it would be accurate to say Valencia is a wrestling prodigy. Whether Valencia realizes his dream of becoming an Olympic gold medalist remains to be seen, but this much is certain: He’s doing things at such a high level that one can’t help but marvel at his accomplishments.
To wit: Valencia has nine national titles to his credit—and that’s just in wrestling. He’s also one of the best judo athletes in his division in the country, having won six judo titles in the Junior Olympics. Valencia’s dazzling performance in the World Combat Games was his best one yet. He went a combined 6-0, with one nail-biting match in each discipline.
In the 38 kilogram (84 pounds) freestyle division, Valencia’s toughest match was his first. Trailing 4-0 with 90 seconds remaining, Valencia had to persevere and show some mettle if he wanted to advance. And that’s exactly what he did, scoring six consecutive points to post a 6-5 victory. Valencia’s dad, Joel, who said he has coached youth wrestling for 30 years, continues to be amazed by Aden’s accomplishments—and not just because he’s talking about his son.
“Aden has this ability to rise when he needs to—it’s uncanny,” Joel said.
Valencia needed to dig deep and be at his best in his toughest match in the Greco Roman division. Once again, the first match proved to be his toughest. Valencia was down 6-0 and was within a whisker of being eliminated via technical fall. In the second period, Valencia’s opponent unleashed a head and arm throw that resulted in two points for a 6-0 lead.
Had the opponent been awarded four points for the throw, the match would’ve ended immediately, since eight points equals a technical fall victory at the 15-and-under level.
“I thought he was going to get four (points) on it, so I was a little worried,” Valencia said. “But I didn’t get exposed all the way, so they only gave him two points.”
After that, it was all Valencia, who completed a bridge before scoring on two hard gut wrench moves to score a 7-6 decision.
“I was the offensive wrestler the whole match, and he was kind of countering everything,” said Valencia, whose achievement was all the more impressive considering he was competing in just his third Greco-Roman tournament of his burgeoning career against athletes in the competition who regularly train and compete in Greco-Roman tournaments.
“I thought he would do well at worlds, but I didn’t know if he would win even though this kid wins everything,” Joel said. “He has nine national titles, but for him to win Greco when these boys from other countries specialize in Greco, that’s not a normal thing. Even at the older senior levels, no athlete has ever won in both styles at the world championships.”
Like any ambitious competitor, Aden wakes up everyday thinking he’s the best and the hardest worker. While a lot of youth can think this, Adenknowsthis. The results speak for themselves, and Valencia felt a sense of pride as he made history.
“Making history felt amazing,” he said. “There were a lot of emotions because this is what I’ve been training for a long time.”
Valencia won the freestyle division on the first day of the two-day event, and later on that night Joel beamed with excitement only to see Aden respond in his typical “I haven’t accomplished anything yet” attitude.
“After I won the freestyle, my dad was going nuts,” Aden said. “But I told him, ‘We’ve still got tomorrow and this thing is not over.’ I couldn’t lose my focus.”
In addition to his physical skills, mental toughness and determination, what separates Valencia apart from the rest is his ability to make in-match adjustments and prepare a solid game plan.
“His brain is like a computer,” Joel said. “I’ll hand him the phone showing him a minute or two clip on his next opponent, and he’ll give the phone back and say, ‘OK, I know what I need to do to beat him.’ The way he can adjust and find holes in people’s styles is what I really think makes him unique.”
Sobrato wrestling coach Luis Lopez agrees: “His knowledge of wrestling is off the charts.”
With Joel and his wife set on having Aden enroll at Sobrato—and not into a private school/wrestling academy outside of California—some observers have said that Aden has the potential to go down as a four-time CIF state wrestling champion, which would rightly earn him the moniker of being the most decorated and accomplished wrestler in South Valley history.
So far, everything points to Valencia continuing his ascent to the top.