Student-athletes from eight different schools captured first-place finishes at the 2010-11 San Diego/Imperial County girls wrestling championship tournament to further highlight the growth of the female segment of the sport within the region.
Among those winning county championships were four South County girls: Mater Dei Catholic’s Briana Gamez (100 pounds), Bonita Vista’s Destiny Palomata (116) and Desiree Macias (128) and Otay Ranch’s Jasmine “Texas” Garza (156).
The one-day tournament took place Jan. 17 at Mater Dei High School in Chula Vista.
“It was a good showing for the first tournament of its kind,” Mater Dei Catholic coach Scott Ullsperger said. “We had girls from 15 different high schools represented. The tournament featured some good competition. We had some great matches.”
Steele Canyon recorded 181 team points — well ahead of runner-up San Pasqual’s 76.5 points — to win the team title. Bracing the Cougars were 11 championship finalists, including five weight class champions.
Mater Dei Catholic finished in third place, followed by Point Loma in fourth place.
Weight classes included 100, 105, 110, 116, 120, 124, 128, 134, 140, 148, 156, 167, 191 and 237 pounds. In an impressive display, all 14 weight classes included at least one competitor, with nine weight classes wrestling down to at least four place-finishers.
Individual awards were presented to student-athletes placing first through third in their respective weight classes while the top two teams received awards.
The tournament seeding was done to separate the top two athletes by half brackets and also to separate teammates so they would not face each other in the first round, if possible.
Gamez, a senior, recorded two pins to win her weight class. She became interested in the sport through her older brother, who wrestled at MDC, and has been involved in cheerleading for the past three years. Her gymnast-like cheer routines have obviously helped her on the mat.
“A lot of the wrestlers on the team said that I should join but my brother wouldn’t let me,” Gamez said. “But then he graduated and I joined the team. The experience has been amazing — the best in life so far. It’s taught me so many things. Taking first was pretty amazing since it’s my first year.”
Garza entered the county finals with perhaps the most experience after qualifying twice for the Texas state finals. A native of Corpus Christi, she has been wrestling for four years.
“I moved to California just before the start of the wrestling season and went to practice my first day at school,” she said.
Garza won this year’s county championship with pins in 56 and 24 seconds. She improved to 7-0 on the season with six pins in less than 30 seconds.
Garza teamed up with Otay Ranch junior Adam Olimski in the practice room. Both have learned from each other.
“He’s a lot taller than all of the girls I wrestle, he uses his legs a lot, so I try to use that to counteract leg moves,” she said.
Olimski, who competed in the 173-pound weight class at last weekend’s South Bay Invitational, had this to say about his experience in the practice room with Garza.
“Don’t underestimate girls,” he said.
Eight other South Bay girls also earned place-finishes. MDC senior Jacki Bennett (140) and Southwest’s Arianna Camargo (167) both finished second in their respective weight classes. Four others finished fourth: Bonita Vista’s Britany Lopez (105) and Rachel Lopez (124), Southwest’s Marlen Acosta (128) and Eastlake’s Amanda Kachadorian (148). Southwest’s Angelica Frachini (116) and Mater Dei’s Jasmine Gamboa (156) both finished fifth.
Bennett is one of the sport’s more inspirational stories. She failed to win a match in her first season on the mat, going 0-10 as a junior. But came back to place second this year. She is now 15-6.
“I just put in a lot more time — my level of commitment changed,” she said. “Everything just started to finally click. All those moves I learned … I could finally put the pieces together.”
Steele Canyon’s county champions included Sarah Lincoln (110 pounds), Bethany Bell (134), Dakota Heisinger (148), Chyna Stevens (191) and Indya Stevens (237).
Also for the Cougars, Margarita Meza (100), Lesette Garcia (105), Apolonia Pina (110), Yvette Cerna (120), Danielle Schneider (124) and Pamela Feldman (128) all finished in second place.
Steele Canyon had five more medalists (for a total of 16), as Brooke Huerta (120), Magdalena Ybarra (128), Marki Simmons (140), Olivia Richardson (148) and Deja’ Smith (191) all finished in third place.
Also winning county championships were Hoover’s Kenia Rendon (105), Oceanside’s Kalin Alvarez-Knight (120), Point Loma’s Olga Harber (140) and Elvira Gonzalez (167),
Second-place medalists also included Mira Mesa’s Alexandra Savage (116), San Pasqual’s Vanessa Morgan (134), Anastasia Sarabia (148) and Jennifer Jeffers (191), La Jolla’s Leslie Benitez (156)
The 2010-11 girls wrestling season continues with a regional qualifier Saturday, Feb. 12, in Beaumont, followed by the state championship tournament Feb. 25-26 in Lemoore. The top 12 place-finishers in each weight class at the Beaumont regional advance to the state tournament.
Gamez and Garza, in particular, have both set their sights on winning this weekend’s regional tournament.
“I think they have a good chance of doing that,” Ullsperger said.
For more information, contact Mater Dei Catholic coach Scott Ullsperger at email@example.com.
San Diego/Imperial Girls County Wrestling Championships
Jan. 17 at Mater Dei Catholic High School
1. Brianna Gamez (Mater Dei Catholic)
2. Margarita Meza (Steele Canyon)
1. Kenia Rendon (Hoover)
2. Lesette Garcia (Steele Canyon)
3. Aisha Arguilez (Granite Hills)
4. Britany Lopez (Bonita Vista)
1. Sarah Lincoln (Steele Canyon)
2. Apolonia Pina (Steele Canyon)
1. Destiny Palomata (Bonita Vista)
2. Alexandra Savage (Mira Mesa)
3. Esmeralda Herrera (San Pasqual)
4. Emile Alexander (San Pasqual)
5. Angelica Frachini (Southwest)
6. Denisse Moran (La Jolla)
1. Kalin Alvarez-Knight (Oceanside)
2. Yvette Cerna (Steele Canyon)
3. Brooke Huerta (Steele Canyon)
4. Ramona Gwin (Steele Canyon)
5. Donna Martin (San Pasqual)
1. Julianne DeLa Torre (Lakeside)
2. Danielle Schneider (Steele Canyon)
3. Gabrielle Fleming (Monte Vista)
4. Rachel Lopez (Bonita Vista)
1. Desiree Macias (Bonita Vista)
2. Pamela Feldman (Steele Canyon)
3. Magdalena Ybarra (Steele Canyon)
4. Marlen Acosta (Southwest)
5. Isabella Moreno (Steele Canyon)
1. Bethany Bell (Steele Canyon)
2. Vanessa Morgan (San Pasqual)
1. Olga Harber (Point Loma)
2. Jackie Bennett (Mater Dei Catholic)
3. Marki Simmons (Steele Canyon)
4. Morae Fracchiola (Point Loma)
1. Dakota Heisinger (Steele Canyon)
2. Anastasia Sarabia (San Pasqual)
3. Olivia Richardson (Steele Canyon)
4. Amanda Kachadorian (Eastlake)
1. Jasmine Garza (Otay Ranch)
2. Leslie Benitez (La Jolla)
3. Shyann Smith (Rancho Buena Vista)
4. Irene Salazar (San Pasqual)
5. Jasmine Gamboa (Mater Dei)
1. Elvira Gonzalez (Point Loma)
2. Arianna Camargo (Southwest)
1. Chyna Stevens (Steele Canyon)
2. Jennifer Jeffers (San Pasqual)
3. Deja' Smith (Steele Canyon)
4. Teresa Gomez (Lakeside)
1. Indya Stevens (Steele Canyon)
Top Four Teams
1. Steele Canyon 181.0
2. San Pasqual 76.5
3. Mater Dei 39.0
4. Point Loma 38.0