It wasn't exactly a smooth ride for the four-time champion, but Pioneer Valley's girls wrestling team won the CIF Southern Section Northern Regional again Saturday.
The Panthers advanced 13 of their 14 wrestlers to the CIF-SS Masters Meet, the most of any Northern Regional team, and outscored second-place Nipomo 207-182 at Pioneer Valley's gymnasium.
Saturday marked the fourth CIF-SS Northern Regional. The Panthers have hosted the meet, and won it, every time.
Pioneer Valley won Saturday despite only one of its five No. 1 seeds, freshman Mya Velasquez, winning a regional title. Velasquez won the championship with an 8-0 major decision over Karina Lopez of Santa Paula at 126 pounds.
"I knew she was a thrower, so I worked on doing the duck under move and getting behind her," said Velasquez. "That's what worked best for me."
The Masters Meet is the qualifier for the state meet. The two-day Masters Meet will take place next Friday and Saturday at Eastvale Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
"My goal is to qualify for state," said Velasquez. "I'm very excited to have won a Northern Regional championship."
"We had some bumps along the road today, some tough losses," Pioneer Valley coach Kevin Ilac acknowledged.
"Our goal was to qualify all 14 girls (for the Masters Meet), we advanced 13, so we're happy about that. We're going to work hard the next several days and hope to be ready for the Masters Meet."
The top eight finishers in each weight class qualified for the Masters Meet.
Just two of the top seeds in the seven lower weight classes won.
Nipomo sophomore Abril Sanchez was one of those. She needed just 38 seconds to pin Palmdale's Hazel Lara in the 106-pound championship match.
"The single move worked best for me today," Sanchez said after she won her first Northern Regional championship.
"It's my favorite move. I've been practicing that a lot.
"My goal is to make it to state."
Nipomo senior Alexis Garcia made it to the state meet last year. What she couldn't do was place, though she finished in the top 12.
She has said her goal all year has been to place at the 2017 state meet, and she took a step closer Saturday. Garcia successfully defended her Northern Regional title at 235 pounds and ran her season record to 27-0.
Garcia didn't have an easy time in the championship match to do it. She ran into a lot of resistance from Camarillo's Hannah Hartley, but an early takedown was enough was enough to give Garcia a 2-0 win.
"She was one of the toughest girls I've wrestled all year," Garcia said. "She has a lot of upper body strength. She was hard to take down."
Santa Maria's Jennifer Ballesteros won at 116 pounds. Top seed Cherry Inay forfeited with an injury.
"Cherry will be fine for the Masters Meet," said Ilac. "Once she qualified, we didn't want to push it."
Second-ranked Claudia Zimmerman of Calabasas upset top-ranked, and previously unbeaten, Lesly Hernandez of Cabrillo with a 14-6 major decision for the title at 101 pounds.
Besides Sanchez, Ballesteros and Velasquez, other lower weights champions were Sierra Olea of Oxnard at 111 pounds, Annabel Medina of Channel Islands, an 11-9 overtime winner over top-seeded Emily Ramirez of Pioneer Valley at 121, and Yazmin Gonzalez of Camarillo at 131.
Gonzalez was another upset winner, defeating top-ranked Malina Bourbon of Pioneer Valley 6-2.
All of the top-ranked wrestlers at the upper weights won. Champions included Mikayla Miles of Ojai Nordhoff at 137 pounds, Tai Soldo of Oxnard at 143, Jaryssa Tambi of Antelope Valley at 150, Cindy Vasquez of Santa Paula at 160. Dymond Guilford of Palmdale Eastside at 170, Haylee Martinez of Antelope Valley at 189 and Garcia.
Oxnard finished third in the 32-team field with 131 points. Santa Paula (125 points) and Antelope Valley (111) rounded out the top five.