EL CAJON, CA (KGTV) — It's that time of the year when the best high school wrestlers from all over California compete for a state CIF title.
Among the competitors this year will be senior Valeria Rocha of El Cajon Valley High School. Valeria has had a great season so far, as she is ranked 2nd in the state in her weight class. She has been a part of the Braves wrestling program since she was a Freshman and gives credit to her brothers for getting her involved in the sport.
"I used to fight a lot with my brothers," says the Braves senior. "I have three older brothers, so it just ran in the family. Everyone in the family loves boxing, and I wanted to do a contact sport."
Now when it comes to hitting the wrestling mat, this year's Braves wrestling team was a bit different than from year's past. Other than Valeria, there were no other girls on the team
"It wasn't like oh, then I don't want to be there. It was more like OK, it is what it is."
So with no other girls on the team, Valeria wrestled at practice with a larger male teammate. However, that didn't work out so well, as she was injured a few times when he fell on her. That's when Head Coach Jason Gibbs came up with another idea.
"So coach says here is your new best friend, Ivan"
Ivan is a big wrestling dummy that is shaped like a person, complete with head, arms, and legs. Ivan is what Valeria uses to work on her moves and to throw around the wrestling mat.
"It may not seem like it, but I've beaten him up pretty good. I make it work."
While Valeria makes it look easy tossing the wrestling dummy around the mat, it definitely is not. Ivan is no lightweight.
"Ivan weighs 160 pounds."
The work Valeria has put in each day with Ivan has paid off.
"I try to hit him with as much force as I can. When I try to do a shot or a throw, it's just setting him up different ways to get the most that I can out of the workout. While it's worked, obviously it's not the same as with a real wrestling partner."
The Braves senior is now getting set to head to Bakersfield for the CIF State Tournament.
"I know that I am prepared with all my knowledge and tools. I'm hoping to get first place this year, which is why I'm preparing the best I can."