On That Comeback Trail

By Jeremy McDonald

jeremymcdonald73@gmail.com

SALEM, Ore.— West Salem’s Anybeth Valenzuela has indeed left her mark on the Titan Wrestling program as the Senior wrapped up her final practice of her career Wednesday morning.

There are no nerves at the moment as she enters the eight-girl bracket at Cottage Grove Thursday morning, Valenzuela pointing towards it’s not until the moments leading up to the match in which the nerves really do kick in for her.

“I don’t get nervous until like five minutes before the match starts that I start freaking out a little bit, but once I’m out there I’m good,” Valenzuela said.

Thursday has been a longtime coming.  Valenzuela suffered a torn ligament in her knee to start her Junior Year last year, second-time it had happened that she would have to be sidelined to heal up. 

West Salem Head Coach Mike Baker pointed towards how she wanted to keep going on it.  That she was fine, but with the powers that be, Valenzuela decided it was best to heal up and hope for a run at it her Senior Year.

“I mean it was really frustrating because I was out for six months and I had to train my butt off to try to make it to State last year, then it just kind of ended.  But I’m just happy we had a season,” Valenzuela said.  “When everyone was taking time off, I was getting better and other people were resting.  It gave me time to get back into it.”

The Coronavirus Pandemic had bought her a few extra months to heal up, leaving hope that the final ride she would eventually have materialized as it did this Spring.  Giving her some extra time to get back into it Valenzuela pointed out.

At the South Regional Tournament this past Saturday, Valenzuela made her way to the 105-pound Semi-Final before falling to Sweet Home’s Sicily Neuschwander by a 7-4 decision.  Neuschwander went on to win the Regional Title.

Through the blood rounds Valenzuela responded by defeating Thurston’s Emma Dyemartin by Pin-Fall before pinning Emilee Williamson of Mountain View at the 1:37 mark of the match to pick up third-place.  In the match however, the Titan grappler qualified for State as the Top 4 make it to the big dance.  Making her the first West Salem Girls wrestler to ever qualify for the State Tournament.

“It was super cool; I wasn’t expecting it.  I was just trying to wrestle out the year, finish off my Senior Year.  But I’m really happy that I’m going to State,” Valenzuela said.

Baker has described her as tough and resilient.  Going back to when she initially sustained her knee injury her Junior Year and her willingness to keep going on it.  Also pointed towards the uncertainty of the kind of comebacks post-operation, but was impressed with Valenzuela chomping at the bit upon her return.

“It’s amazing.  She is one tough girl,” Baker said.  “Last year she did it right at the beginning of the season for the second-time.  She wanted to keep wrestling and it was like ‘no, this is obviously something bad’, then she was like ‘ah I’d go see the trainer’ and even the trainer was like ‘no, you need to go see a doctor’.

“So when she went and saw the doctor, she tore it again.  She had her second surgery last year and after that, whether it’s a boy or a girl, you don’t know what you’re going to get the next year.  But she came back chomping at the bit ready to go.  So, it’s really cool to see how tough and resilient she has been.  She didn’t know what she was going to get and came back this year and hit the ground running and it paid dividends.”

Valenzuela will open the double-elimination bracket Thursday morning at Cottage Grove against Glencoe’s Yamilet Claudio Marquez.

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