The last time Shane and Dane Valdez saw Calvary Chapel compete in a dual meet was 5 1/2 years ago.
So when the former Eagle standouts came back to lend a hand to their former high school coach this season, both agreed it was great to be back, but also just a little bit strange.
"A lot of things have changed. The people I knew are gone and I really don't know that many who are here now," Shane Valdez said. "It was kind of weird coming back, but it was also exciting."
Just like the opening extravaganza before Wednesday's meet against Santa Ana. The pregame program included a psychedelic light show and a hip-hop trio that entertained the sold-out crowd.
"That was great," Shane Valdez said. "When I was here, there was a little smoke and some lights, but nothing like this."
Shane and Dane Valdez were Calvary Chapel's first wrestling standouts. Dane won a state title in 1993, and Shane followed with a state title in '94. Both are credited with helping John Azevedo build one of the top prep wrestling programs in the nation.
After graduating from Calvary Chapel in 1994, the twins received scholarships to Oklahoma, where they graduated last May with academic and wrestling honors.
"We're here to help Coach John with his team, but Dane and I are also here to train for the Olympic trials," Shane said.
Shane, 24, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma, was ranked third in the nation at 125 pounds in 1999. He qualified for the NCAA championships four times with 115 career victories.
Dane, who was ranked 17th by the NCAA but was out for most of his last season with a knee injury, was an All-American in 1997 and qualified three times for the NCAA championships.
"We called John, and asked him if we could coach and also train," Shane said. "It was great that he let us do it."
For Azevedo, the request by the brothers was a no-brainer.
"Who wouldn't want Shane and Dane helping them coach? It's great to have them helping out," Azevedo said. "With their experience, it's a nice position to be in."
For Dane, it's a two-way street.
"It brought back memories when I came back," he said. "But it also made me appreciate more what John has done with this team. It's a totally different perspective when you're sitting in the coach's chair and watching the kids wrestle."
Shane agreed with his brother.
"I never knew how much time John devoted to this team," he said. "I can really appreciate what he's done now that I've seen it."
Not only the hard work garnered Shane's respect, but also the agony of having to watch the matches.
"When I'm watching, all I can do is shout," Shane said. "I'm contorting and moving my body in my chair with each wrestler's move. And I'm thinking, 'I wish I could be out there.' "
For 11 consecutive seasons, Laguna Hills had won the Pacific Coast League championship. But last summer, the Hawks were moved to the Sea View League, where they now have to reckon with Irvine.
On Wednesday, 10th-ranked Laguna Hills hosts fourth-ranked Irvine at 7:30 p.m. The last time these schools met--two years ago--the Hawks won.
"Irvine is loaded, but I think it's going to be a good match," Hawk Coach Cliff Jarmie said.
Irvine Coach John Phillips is also looking forward to the match.
"It's good for wrestling," Phillips said. "Laguna Hills will be tough and we're not taking anything for granted."
In other action this week, top-ranked Calvary Chapel, second-ranked Santa Ana and Irvine will compete in the Canyon Springs tournament at Moreno Valley Canyon Springs High starting Friday. This is the last big tournament before the Southern Section dual meet championships next month.
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