Central Valley High School’s boys wrestling team and other programs throughout the United States had their seasons shortened in 2020-21 due to coronavirus-safety concerns.
The 2021-22 athletic year opens with a sense of normalcy as schedules consist of dual, tournament and postseason competition.
“I’m super excited to have the kids back in the room,” Coach Rob Beckhart said. “They had last year taken away from them.”
“I got a great group,” he added. “They work hard and understand what we’re trying to do. They know what the end goal is.”
Central Valley returns six grapplers from a season ago, including Ruben Valenzuela (Sr., 182 pounds), Juan Melgoza (Sr., 152s), Enrique Gonzalez (Sr., 152s), Nick Genasci (Sr., 113s), Elijah DeLeon (Sr., 160s) and Camden Cai (Sr., 285s).
The Hawks have seven newcomers in Andrew Torres (Sr., 170s), Aden Garcia (Jr. 132s), Anthony Malagon (Jr., 195s), Cesar Pacheco (Jr., 132s), Joey Zuniga (So., 120s), Makhai Smith (So., 220s) and Angel Melgoza (Fr., 145s).
“We definitely have a stronger this team year,” Beckhart said. “We have depth. I don’t want to put any limitations on this group. We’ll put a lineup together that can compete.”
Valenzuela and Garcia are team leaders.
“Both of those kids are good wrestlers and work hard. The other kids respect them.”Coach Rob Beckhart
“Both of those kids are good wrestlers and work hard,” Beckhart said. “The other kids respect them.”
Valenzuela will look to add to his already-impressive resume.
He has a 78-18 career record.
He finished a perfect 12-0 as a junior.
Valenzuela qualified for the CIF State Meet sophomore year. He amassed a 35-7 record on the season. Valenzuela placed at seven tournaments. He was sixth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships. He took first at the Division-III, Central California Conference and Mike Tamana tournaments. He finished second at the James Riddle Classic and fifth at the Tim Brown Memorial.
Valenzuela won 31 of 42 matches in the ninth grade.
“Very rarely do you have a kid like Ruben,” Beckhart said.
Gonzalez and Juan Melgoza had their sophomore seasons cut short at the CCC Tournament. Gonzalez posted an 0-2 record at 132 pounds. Melgoza lost all three of his matches at 138 pounds.
Central Valley had one individual qualify for state, five for Masters and eight for Divisionals during its last full season of competition in 2019-20. The Hawks compiled an 0-6 record while struggling as a team against CCC dual opponents.
Central Valley will compete against Atwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, Golden Valley, El Capitan and Patterson during the conference dual season.
The Hawks will host the CCC Championships on Feb. 4.
“We’re in the CCC,” Beckhart said. “It’s not easy. We definitely have work to do. We’re not the best team in our league. Golden Valley and Merced are really tough. We’re not scared of anybody. We’ll go out, wrestle and let the points fall where they fall.”
The Hawks enjoyed their best season to date in 2016-17 by finishing first at the Division-IV Tournament and Team Dual championships. Central Valley also claimed its second straight Western Athletic Conference overall title.
Central Valley’s numbers are up this year. The Hawks have 40 wrestlers across their varsity and junior-varsity teams.
“We do a lot of recruiting,” Beckhart said. “We’re on campus. I think we’re on the right track. Over the next few years, we’ll be a lot stronger. It’s a process. The first part is to have numbers. We just have to get the right kids in the right weight classes to be successful.”