The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

The student news site of Smithson Valley High School in Spring Branch, Texas

Valley Ventana

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Graphic by Alex Whelchel via Canva
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Pinning the win

Senior places first at wrestling state
Efren “Junior” Arizmendez wins first in state on Feb. 16 after not losing a single match. Photo courtesy of SV Wrestling

The day after winning the state championship for wrestling, senior Efren “Junior” Arizmendez was back on the mat – not practicing, but helping a younger wrestler prepare for his own state championship.

His dad was there to notice.

“His body was sore, but as a creature of habit, we went to our club just to loosen up his body a little bit,” Efren Sr. said. “He noticed that one of our younger club kids was preparing for his club’s state championships, and he took the initiative to work with him.”

For Junior, helping the younger wrestlers is a no-brainer.

“Younger wrestlers are our future,” he said. “If nobody is there to guide them, then they won’t get better or they will progress much slower. In order to create growth in the sport and help younger wrestlers reach their goals, they need help from those more experienced.”

Junior placed first at the state championship in the 165 weight class, and the team placed fourth overall on Feb. 16.

“I was relieved (when I won),” Junior said. “I took second last year. I lost to a guy that I beat previously. I was expected to win this year, and I wanted to do everything I could to accomplish that.”

To make it to state, Junior had to place in the top four at district and region. He took first in both tournaments, advancing to state. At state, he won every match to take first.

“My hardest match of the year was definitely semi-finals (at state),” Junior said. “(My opponent) was training to beat me specifically. I have a very peculiar wrestling style, and he and his coach studied my film. I had to adapt on the spot.”

Not only is he a good wrestler, Junior is a leader on and off the mat.

“He always has an outstanding work ethic,” teammate Trajan Falk said. “He always wants everyone to do their best, no matter what’s going on. He wants you to do your best, and he will help out as much as he can to help you achieve that.”

Junior began wrestling at the age of 6 after his dad, a former wrestler himself, encouraged him to join.

“I knew from experience that wrestling was one of the few sports that would make or break him,” Efren Sr. said. “Many sports are easy to be in and hide on the sidelines. Wrestling has you and your opponent. You can succeed or fail on your own.”

As Junior grew up, his dad was a constant figure to coach him through his ups and downs, along with his club coach in Idaho.

“I was fairly tough on him when he was younger, and he had a lot of success,” Efren Sr. said. “But he wasn’t the kind of kid that could learn that way. If we found a weakness or a failure, we would focus on it until it became a strength.”

Junior remembers things a little differently.

“I always enjoyed going to tournaments when I was little and trying the moves that my dad taught me the week before,” he said. “It didn’t matter if I got the move right or not; he still was happy to see me try new things.”

Whether it be his weight class or his leadership skills, Junior has grown throughout his years as a wrestler.

“(When he was a freshman) he was still a really good wrestler, but not much of a leader,” Falk said. “(The team) has become a very tight knit group, and he has definitely stepped right into the position of team leader, the team representative.”

As Junior leaves to continue his wrestling career at Life University in the fall, his dad still remembers the goofy 6-year-old he once was.

“I have seen him grow from a shy kid dancing and spinning around the mat at practice to the disciplined grown man focused on honing his craft and teaching others,” Efren Sr. said. “and still dancing on the side of the mat.”

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