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Grappling with Greatness

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Arizona State sophomore Zahid Valencia, who appeared in Faces in the Crowd in December 2014 after winning his fourth straight title at the Walsh Ironman wrestling tournament, became the 11th national champion in Sun Devils history on March 17. Defeating Penn State's Mark Hall (Faces, September 2016) for the 174-pound NCAA crown, the Pico Rivera, Calif., native avenged his 2017 semifinal loss (to Hall) with an 8--2 win at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The victory capped a perfect 32--0 season, which also included his second conference title. Valencia, a finalist for wrestler of the year, describes the national title as the apex of years of diligence and effort. "I believe I've done all the right things," he says. "All the sacrifices I've made, all the hard work I've put in, my dedication, it was for something. To be able to reach my goal is really satisfying."