Knee injury can’t slow down Carson wrestler Valladares | NevadaAppeal.com
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Knee injury can’t slow down Carson wrestler Valladares

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com
Kim Lamb/Nevada AppealCarson wrestler Junior Valladares (blue) wrestled Fallon's Dalton Johnson in an exhibition match Wednesday and won 20-5.
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A torn medial collateral ligament would be enough to sideline many athletes. Carson High wrestler Junior Valladares isn’t one of them.

Five weeks ago at the prestigious Tournament of Champions, Valladares tore his right MCL. He missed the Sierra Nevada Classic and the Douglas Invitational, but returned in time for the Senators’ dual meet at Damonte Ranch and has shown no signs of slowing down since. He has earned two pins in dual meets and a second-place finish at the Spring Creek Invitational.

“The knee is fine,” said Valladares, who takes a 22-3 record into this weekend’s tournament at Foothill High in Sacramento. “It only bothers me occasionally. It’s been five weeks. It should have healed.

“Sometimes when I’m fooling around with Nick (Schlager) at practice, I get turned a certain way and I feel it a little. I never worry about it during a match, though.”

Carson coach Tim McCarthy marvels at the fact that Valladares is still wrestling and has compiled a nice record to boot.

“He’s doing well this year, considering having a torn medial collateral ligament,” McCarthy said. “I haven’t talked to his doctor. I just have the note that said it was OK to wrestle.

“It’s his senior season, and you’d hate for a kid to miss that. There was probably some coercion on his part to finish out the season. His goal is to be a state champ this season.”

You can see the resolve in Valladares’ eyes. He missed the state tournament last year, and he’s not about to let a little pain get in his way this year, especially when this might be the last year he ever wrestles competitively.

Two wrestlers – Bishop Manogue’s Gary Albright and Bishop Gorman’s Johnny Field – are Valladares’ biggest roadblocks to a state crown. Field is the returning state champion.

Valladares has split two matches against Albright this year, and likely will be seeded ahead of him at the upcoming 4A regional.

“This year I don’t think anything will stop me,” Valladares said. “I can beat Gary (Albright). He (Albright) tells me he’s going to drop a weight. So we’ll see. Since I beat him in the dual match, I should be seeded No. 1 (barring any upsets).

“Winning a state title would be a nice way to end four years of high school wrestling.”

It will be a tough road that will go through Field, who has a career record of 85-21, including 31-3 this year.

“He (Field) is possibly the best all-around wrestler in the state except for Steven Hernandez (of Gorman),” McCarthy said. “Field is definitely the most formidable opponent (at 171) in Southern Nevada.”

Valladares’ rise to an elite wrestler is impressive when you consider that he got a late start in the sport. Unlike many of his teammates, who started in elementary school, Valladares didn’t even start wrestling in competition until he reached Carson High. He was introduced to the sport during eighth-grade physical education class.

“I never considered wrestling until eighth grade,” Valladares said. “I was pretty good at it, and they wanted me to go out for the team there. When I got here. I didn’t know a whole lot. I learned so much the first couple of years here.

“I’ve put a lot of hard work in. The coaches have given me advice. I take it in and try to work on it during practice.”

McCarthy said Valladares is like a sponge, soaking up a lot of information. The coach calls Valladares his “gym rat”.

“He has a lot of natural ability,” McCarthy said. “He has great balance and really good hips. The hips go along with his great balance. He’s able to use his hips to fend off attacks and not fall over on his side.

“He’s got cat-like quickness. He’s good on his feet from the neutral position. He was good last year, but he’s gotten even better. One of his main workout partners is our assistant coach Paul Carter. They go at it really hard. They’ve had some good wars in the wrestling room. It’s definitely been a big help to Junior. He’s got a good attitude. He takes the sport seriously, but he can be light-hearted.”

Valladares said his quickness is essential.

“I’m pretty small for a 171-pounder,” he said. “I’m a lot quicker than most guys. Speed is a big advantage.”

So is strength. Valladares’ work in the weight room for football has paid some big dividends. The Carson senior said he’s gotten stronger all around, but especially in his upper body.

What does the future hold?

Valladares, who wants to become an engineer, said he’s heard from a college in Montana and the University of Portland, but most likely he’ll wait and see what the wrestling post-season brings. If a scholarship isn’t forthcoming, Valladares is likely to enroll at the University of Nevada in the fall and end his competitive career.

“Oh definitely,” McCarthy said. “I know he could be a college wrestler. Wrestling is a lot tougher in college, though. You’re not going to practice against some JV kid. Everybody in college is a state champ or a state placer. The commitment has to be really huge.”

“I’m not sure if I’m ready to cut weight for another four years and put in that kind of time,” said Valladares.