WENATCHEE — Ed Valdez has considered Moses Lake his rival for decades.
It’s the same heralded dynasty that duked it out against his Othello team during his high school years in the late 1970’s. Valdez — who wrestled at 132 pounds for most of his high school career — got the better of his opponent two times in three years at the varsity level, yet Othello recorded just one dual meet win against Moses Lake in that time. Othello was no push over, the Chiefs were just that good.
“There’s no one that has a winning record against them,” Valdez said.
As the years have passed, not much has changed, at least concerning Moses Lake’s dominance.
The Panthers will get their shot at usurping the prestigious powerhouse at 7 p.m. Thursday at Wenatchee High School in a Big Nine dual meet, but the odds aren’t in the home team’s corner.
Despite Valdez’s personal success in high school against the Chiefs, he hasn’t had much luck against them during his coaching career with the Panthers.
The veteran coach’s last dual win against Moses Lake dates back to 1987, when he was an assistant.
Valdez probably had his best shot at taking the Chiefs down during Wenatchee’s 1999 campaign, when it finished second at state. Unfortunately, Moses Lake dropped down to class 3A that year, and the high-powered Panthers never got a shot.
Valdez has squared off against the Chiefs from various vantage points, and in that time, he’s developed a familiar appreciation.
“I have respect for Moses Lake, but I’ve never feared them,” he said. “And I don’t think the athletes that come through here should, either.”
Part of the lack of fear — at least, from the athletes’ perspective — comes from a lack of awareness.
“They know Moses Lake is tough, but I don’t think kids know the history of wrestling.”
That could be a critical advantage for the Panthers on Thursday evening. Most don’t know about the Chiefs’ 14 state titles dating back to 1960. They weren’t alive when Moses Lake captured five straight state championships from 1964-68. In all likelihood, they’re vaguely aware of the fact that wrestling in Moses Lake is more than just a sport, it’s a tradition.
But it’s doubtful any of that will crop up when Wenatchee prepares for the meet.
Simply put, “Whoever they bring is who I wrestle,” said Kyle Lesmeister (220 pounds), who is 23-5 this season.
That’s probably for the best. Getting caught up with pedigrees and tradition won’t do much to increase chances of success on the mat. But keeping it simple and staying focused on the task at hand could make a difference.
“When they come here, we’ll see,” Lesmeister said.
Jon Frank: 664-7157