For Valley Center coach Brian Shelton, wins are not nearly as important as continued improvement throughout the season. He expects his wrestlers to be better in February than they were in December.

At Valley Center’s annual December Duals last weekend, the Hornets finished seventh with a 2-3 record. Thursday at Goddard, Valley Center looked much better despite dropping a 40-30 decision to the No. 6 team in Class 5A.

“We saw improvement today,” Shelton said. “Our biggest problem is we get pinned. We got pinned four times tonight. You can’t beat any good team – and Goddard is a very good team – getting pinned four times.”

Two of those pins came at extremely inopportune times for the Hornets. Valley was ahead 30-28 after 195 pounds when the Lions recorded first-period pins at the final two weights to pull out the win.

It was back and forth most of the night as Valley gave Goddard all it could handle. The Lions opened with a major decision at 106 by Lane Glover (ranked No. 6 in 5A), and Hornet sophomore Ryan Delforge (No. 3) countered with a pin at 113. Then Goddard pinned at 120, only to watch Valley sophomore Seth Dillman do the same thing at 126.

Dillman’s pin put the Hornets back on top 12-10 in the team scoring. Shelton described his performance as “awesome.

“We worked on two things this past week with Seth Dillman, and he executed each one of them perfectly,” Shelton said. “He has good practices, he does everything correct and he’s getting better. He’s got two new tools in his toolbox this week that he didn’t have last week. If he does that for the next 10 weeks, he’s going to have a shot to get on the podium at the state tournament.”

Wins in the next three matches put Goddard in front 22-12. Kameron Frame won by a 6-0 decision at 132, Dale Davidson scored a reverse midway through the third period for a 2-1 victory at 138 over sixth-ranked David Ortiz, and No. 4 Christian Frame pinned freshman Dan Boone in 1:32 after getting off to a bad start at 145.

Valley picked up three team points by trading a pin at 152 for a loss by decision at 160 to cut the deficit to seven, 25-18. Goddard was open at 170 and Valley’s Cory Lapierre (No. 6) pinned John Vap at 182 to boost the Hornets into the lead, 30-25.

A pivotal match was at 195 where Goddard’s Leslie Maruo eked out a 5-3 overtime decision over Valley’s Chris Bluml. After that, Corey Atkins (220) and Carter Gragg (285) got quick pins to seal the deal for the Lions.

“As soon as we can take that (getting pinned) away from them, we’re going to have a shot against the Emporias, the Great Bends, the Bishop Carrolls and the Goddards who we’ve lost fairly close duals to,” Shelton said.