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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

DID YOU KNOW? Cafeteria mural’s origins remain a mystery for most but serves its meaningfulness to wrestlers

Asaph Li
The mural in the cafeteria displays “LANCER PRIDE WRESTLING” written in black and gold with a horse rider painted between the letters.

As a continuing feature, The Accolade investigates some of the mysterious spots on campus. For this story, we wrap up our third in a series on campus murals and their origins. The Accolade sends copy editor Seowon Han to investigate.

It’s been two decades now.

Back then, Class of 2003 alumnus JaHon Suh could be found grappling with his teammate on the mats in the cafeteria during his seventh period as part of his wrestling team practices.

Despite the sweat and struggles of being a wrestling athlete, Suh knew he could look up and find a source of motivation: a vertically shaped rectangular drawing wider than the size of a classroom door of a person riding on a horse with the words “LANCER” above and “PRIDE WRESTLING” underneath.

A group of students forms a human pyramid in front of the mural that reads “LANCER PRIDE WRESTLING” on a 1996 yearbook page. (Source: 1996 Helios yearbook)

“The mural is inspirational as in how there in the cafeteria, we work together, we sweat together and we sacrifice together,” said Suh, who competed in the 215 pounds and heavyweight divisions for the wrestling team. “Because when wrestling season started in winter, we’d ignore everything else. We all got sucked up into the tornado — Sunny Hills wrestling — and we acted and functioned as a unit.”

However, wrestlers no longer use the cafeteria for their practices as school officials have provided a new practice location — Room 153 — since the 2017-2018 school year.

Nevertheless, students, including those on the boys and girls wrestling squads, can see the drawing in the cafeteria while getting their meals or for other general purposes, such as when the choir performs.

Senior Kevin Moreno, a 126-132 pound weight class wrestler, said he first spotted the mural while waiting in line to get his lunch at the end of his sophomore year after transferring from St. Paul High School.

“I just noticed that the wrestler in the mural was wearing a singlet [a tight-fitting wrestling uniform],” Moreno said. “As a wrestler, I’m glad that the school is recognizing [our program] because I feel that the wrestling team isn’t as recognized as much, and it makes me feel that I need to work as hard as the team that made [the mural] happen.” 

Appreciating the idea of the mural and the team’s history, he said transferring the mural from the cafeteria to the current practice room would be a meaningful motivation for the wrestlers.

“Knowing that the previous teams had to practice in the cafeteria while we have our own room, it makes me feel we’ve come a long way and flashes a light on the wrestling team’s growing popularity,” the senior said. “Having the mural in our practice room would push our wrestlers to constantly strive better, and eventually, what they strive for will be accomplished.”

Practicing in the cafeteria, the Class of ‘03 alumnus said the team had extra responsibilities in organizing the mats and equipment.

“We used to practice in the cafeteria and keep these huge boxes and wrestling mats inside,” Suh said. “It was up to the entire wrestling team to protect those mats and make sure nobody vandalized them or ate food on them.”

After looking at the mural, Associated Student Body [ASB] adviser David Fenstermaker said former co-ASB adviser Mike Paris and an ex-football coach hand-painted the same image on the wall of Room 151, which was part of a weight room that no longer exists, using an overhead projector and stencil roughly 40 years ago in the 1980s.

Fenstermaker said the mural had the word “FOOTBALL” on the room’s wall where it was originally painted, speculating that the writing went along with the coach that contributed to the artwork. A few years later, another group created a version of the mural displaying “WRESTLING” in the cafeteria.

On a 1993 yearbook page featuring the wrestlers, the team poses in front of the older version of the mural. (Source: 1993 Helios yearbook)

“[Paris] guessed the old wrestling coach did the same thing using the same stencil in the cafeteria,” the ASB adviser said.

Coaches Ed and Jimmy Valenzuela stand with the wrestling team on a 2000 yearbook page. (Source: 2000 Helios yearbook)

Even with uncertainties about the mural’s origins, Suh said he wouldn’t be surprised if his former coaches, brothers Ed and Jimmy Valenzuela, were the ones who commissioned the project at least a decade before his years at Sunny Hills.

Jimmy Valenzuela, who is now co-PE department chairman at Sunny Hills, declined to be interviewed about the artwork or anything related to the wrestling program.

Despite the current wrestling teams having their separate practice space in Room 153, co-captain senior Jenna Park, who competes in the 111-pound weight division, said she knew of the mural’s existence since a couple of years ago.

“I noticed that it looked kind of vintage and was super big,” said Park, who first spotted it when taking Drawing and Painting in the summer of 2021 because the class was hosted in the cafeteria. “It kind of gave off that old-school style, and I really liked it.”

After first seeing the mural, she said she wondered about its origin but wasn’t sure. Yet, she knew how the wrestling team in previous years practiced in the cafeteria.

“I would rather have the old mural stay in the cafeteria for its history and have the new one made in our wrestling practice room,” the co-captain said. “It would be great to have a new, modernized one painted outside the room so people would know where our practice room is.”

Sophomore Sydney Lopez, who first beheld the mural her freshman year while in line for lunch, said she was impressed by the meticulousness of the artwork.

“When I first noticed it, I thought it was super detailed, old-fashioned and classic,” Lopez said. “I especially thought the muscular horse with the horse rider was awesome.”

The sophomore said she was confused about why the mural was in the cafeteria initially but assumed the area used to be an old gym.

“It doesn’t have much significance to me, especially because I’m not a wrestler, but I wish we could add more murals like these because it will beautify our campus too,” she said. “I would be bummed if they got rid of it because it looks really cool.”

The wrestling team with former brother coaches Ed and Jimmy Valenzuela (middle) position in front of the mural. (Source: 1997 Helios yearbook)

Acknowledging alumni wrestlers’ sacrifices and effort in the cafeteria, 120-pounder junior Cristian Gomez said he hopes to continue the history by practicing in the same room one day.

“I wish I could practice by the mural at least once because it’s in a big room, which means more space to practice,” said Gomez, who was unaware of the mural’s history. “And more importantly, it holds the team’s history, which would make it fun and special to practice in.”

Because he barely noticed the mural a couple of months ago, he wishes for Sunny Hills to display more, especially for the wrestling team, to bring new eyes and people to join. With the thought, the junior said he often brought up the idea of having a new mural to his coaches.

“But I’ve never considered raising money for a new one because sports already have a low budget, and we would rather use the money for equipment and uniforms,” he said. “Still, I would like another one to be painted in the room because it would improve people’s attitude and performance level while we practice because the environment would be encouraging and look cool.”

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Seowon Han
Seowon Han, Spotlight Editor & Business Manager
After an exciting year as a part of The Accolade staff, junior Seowon Han returns as a spotlight editor and business manager. Han served as a cub reporter her freshman year in Journalism 1 and joined The Accolade as a copy editor the following year. She experienced writing for every section and covered a range of topics. This year, Han looks forward to maintaining her section with fresh and relevant themes and stories to keep the readers informed with accurate news. Outside of The Accolade, Han is involved with several clubs on campus as a cabinet member and plays the flute as part of the Symphonic Band. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to and playing music.
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