Valdivia goes 3-for-3 in all-everything senior year
Grayslake Central's Joey Valdivia was a rare standout in three sports — football, wrestling and track and field. Rarer still, in his senior year he earned all-state accolades in each sport.
Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer
It might seem out of place for a big, strong football player who also wrestles and throws the shot put to be hanging out in a women's hair salon. It probably seems even more out of place for him to be working there.
But Joey Valdivia needed a summer job, and working the register at his mom's salon was the highest-paying option.
Where Valdivia will really seem like a fish out of water this summer is in his new role as a former three-sport athlete. He's not used to quiet summers.
"It's annoying," Valdivia said. "I feel like I have no life when I'm sitting still."
Valdivia recently graduated from Grayslake Central as one of its busiest and best athletes in school history, a four-year, three-sport star who capped off his illustrious career in the most impressive of fashions.
By going 3-for-3 this year in all-state honors — earning them in football, wrestling and track — Valdivia also cemented his place as one of the best athletes in Lake County. He is the Daily Herald's Lake County male athlete of the year.
"Joey is far and away the greatest athlete I've ever coached," Grayslake Central wrestling coach Dan Catanzaro said. "To be a three-sport athlete in this day of specialization is rare enough. But to be a three-sport athlete who is all-state in all three sports is kind of ridiculous.
"I can't even say enough about how much we're going to miss Joey."
Valdivia certainly made a lot of fans at Grayslake Central.
In football, he became a starter late in his freshman year and wound up obliterating every rushing record at the school. A 5-foot-9, 195-pound bundle of muscle and energy, Valdivia was known for his field vision, quick cuts and speed in the open field.
He finished his career with more than 3,000 rushing yards and had one of his best games against crosstown rival Grayslake North last fall. He rushed for 350-plus yards and 6 touchdowns.
"It was nice because that was my highest single-game for rushing yards ever," Valdivia said. "And we beat them. I'm always going to remember that."
After football season, Valdivia's knee started acting up and doctors told him that he would need surgery to repair a torn meniscus ligament. To his dismay, he would be forced to miss the first part of the wrestling season.
But Valdivia was bound and determined not to miss the last part.
And not only did he not miss it, Valdivia wound up advancing downstate and placing second in the 195-pound weight class.
"To go from being hurt, to sitting out to being the No. 2 wrestler in the state on short notice just tells you how good Joey is," Catanzaro said. "He's just unbelievable. He's so strong and athletic. That's what makes him such a good wrestler."
Valdivia went straight from wrestling to track and was soon throwing the shot put and discus as if had been practicing all winter.
He qualified for state in both events but elected to concentrate on just the shot put for the state meet. It was a good move as Valdivia took third with a throw of 56-feet-1½.
On Saturday, Valdivia was back on the track again, participating in the Senior All-Star Spotlight Meet in Joliet for the best seniors in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. He threw a personal best in the shot put with a 61-feet-2.
If anything, that performance just makes him more confused.
Valdivia still hasn't decided what he wants to do in college yet. He's had coaches from various colleges contact him about all three of his sports.
"With the way I threw the shot put in that meet today, maybe I should go with track," Valdivia said. "But I also love football and I think I could be really good at wrestling.
"I honestly have no clue what I'm going to do. It's so hard to decide."
It's been even harder for Valdivia to walk away from the only life he has known in recent years: the hectic rat race of a three-sport athlete.
"I like doing sports all the time. I could do that every day," Valdivia said. "I'm really going to miss it. Even (the hecticness). To me, it's not that hard when you really love it, and I do. I love everything about it. It's made me really happy to be an athlete every season."
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