Valdez, NM Gold and Cardenas excel in RMN Events

Updated: April 23, 2018

 In this series, from November through March, young Western athletes have shared what has brought them success on and off the mat. For high school grapplers, their proving ground comes each February through each state’s championship. Previous Rocky Mountain National Events features can be found in their entirety at > News. This feature appeared in the March 13, 2018 issue of Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. Click here to subscribe to WIN.

By Bill X. Barron

Aaden Valdez (Colorado): Challenge Makes You Stronger

For Pueblo East sophomore Aaden Valdez, a fifth-place finisher in Colorado as a freshman and a Pan-Am Schoolboy Greco silver medalist, he’s always known that wrestling “is all about the battle. We all win or lose eventually.” What neither Aaden nor father and coach Zach could predict is how the circumstances of life would reveal Aaden’s true character.

Aaden Valdez

Guided by what wrestling and his own inner discipline revealed within him, Aaden has come to accept how a quirk of fate could have shown him how to work even harder and to not take life’s gifts for granted. In July of 2017, just a week before he was to compete in Fargo to bring home a Greco medal for Team Colorado, a fireworks accident severed four fingers on his left hand and cost him sight in his left eye. Yet the day the pins came out of his hand, Aaden was back in the wrestling room and the gym training six days a week.

An ardent supporter of and participant in RMN events, Aaden asserts “RMN prepared me with really tough competition. Competing on a raised stage, it puts pressure on you to perform at a young age,”

Coach Valdez adds: “Having that level of competition in our back yard provides kids the opportunity to compete against the best. Ed Gutierrez and his family have been great supporters of the wrestling community.”

New Mexico GOLD: Character, Respect, Humility – by Coach Rey Gallegos

New Mexico Gold is an elite all-star team from New Mexico with its roots and coaches coming from Las Vegas, New Mexico.  The coaches instill small-town values in their wrestlers and emphasize hard work, teamwork, self-confidence and physical and mental discipline. Our wrestlers believe in themselves; they believe if they put their mind and heart into a goal, they will accomplish anything.

New Mexico Gold Team

We believe this sport is bigger than wrestling.  We teach life lessons: be humble, respect authority, and listen to what wrestling teaches you on and off the mat. Our coaches motivate and encourage our young athletes to not only focus on the sport of wrestling, but on character development and good sportsmanship. We want our kids to be successful individuals, not just in wrestling but also in life.  We know the sport of wrestling is the best way to teach perseverance, confidence and build character.

NM Gold has been successful on the national scene, with several wrestlers winning and placing at RMN events all over the West.  Most recently, NM Gold was the RMN New Mexico National Showdown 2018 Team Champs (see photo).

Some of the wrestles who have made a name for themselves are: Romulus Padilla – 15U 80; Daniel Trujillo – 15U 75; Isaac Probst – 15U 80; Lorenzo Gallegos – 10U 65; Marcus Abeyta – 8U 65; and Santiago Mendrano – 8U 69. NM Gold would like to thank RMN for providing wrestlers throughout the Southwest an opportunity to wrestle elite teams and wrestlers from across the country.

Daniel Cardenas (Colorado): We Build Good People

“Life is a wrestling match. Nothing is handed to you. Train and you will win all your battles. Wrestlers learn to work through hard times. In the end, we build good people.” This life philosophy is what Pomona’s Dan Cardenas has ingrained in his eighth-grade son Daniel as both coach and parent.

Daniel Cardenas

Daniel welcomes this approach: “I always try to make it harder on myself by working out in the mornings, then later practicing with kids from all over who are better than me.”

Daniel is unafraid to match up against the best out there. States Coach Dan: “For us, RMN is the crown jewel of Colorado. We look to win their tournaments in order to gauge what’s next.” By choosing to go up against the best, Daniel does not expect to go undefeated. Instead he asserts: “You put in the hard work wherever you are at. You only have regrets if you quit trying. When you lose, which you will, learn through your losses. Then come back fighting harder the next match.”

As Dad Dan reminds his son: “Never go in thinking you are going to lose. But if you do, learn from it!”

Growing up on the RMN circuit prepared Daniel to go against California’s Joey Cruz this January in Tulsa. Although Cruz was going for a record ninth title, Daniel knew he had him beat before the first whistle blew. “I could tell from his handshake — not too firm — that he was less than confident,” says Daniel. “I stayed in good position, not allowing him to capitalize on any mistakes.” When the opportunity presented itself, Daniel took full advantage of the new expanded NFHS boundary rules to score a final takedown to win 4-2.

“Wrestling is a community,” he said. “ I appreciate that wrestlers, coaches and parents from all over were cheering me on.”