There was a time when boys were the only available opponents for female wrestlers.
A priest who was adamantly against girls wrestling against boys once said to a reporter, “I know human nature.”
That wasn’t all that long ago, but it seems like it was a different age now.
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) has sanctioned the girls state wrestling tournament since 2010 and Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria and Righetti all have thriving girls wrestling programs.
Pioneer Valley won the CIF Southern Section Northern Regional Tournament, and hosted it, every year before the Panthers joined most of the other area sports programs in a move to the Central Section in early 2018.
Righetti and Santa Maria consistently show well at the tournaments they enter. Nipomo does not have a full complement of wrestlers, but its program has been on the rise.
Nearly every school in the area has at least some female wrestlers.
Reyna Mendez wrestled for the Pioneer Valley squad that won a state championship in 2009, the year before the CIF sanctioned the girls state wrestling tourney. She is a veteran Santa Maria girls wrestling coach now.
“There’s a lot more word of mouth now, and the girls’ success on the mat has a lot to do with,” the growth of the program at Santa Maria, said Mendez.
When she was a student across town at Pioneer Valley, “I went out for wrestling because it was an intense sport,” Mendez said.
“At that time, there weren’t that many intense sports available for girls.”
Several girls, all of whom had gone unbeaten in their various weight classes in the round-robin-style format, spoke at a mini-tournament that Santa Maria hosted, and won handily, recently.
Their reasons for giving the sport a try varied.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was in eighth grade. I wasn’t any good at any (other sports),” said Nipomo sophomore Elysia Moreno, who said she is also in the Nipomo cheer program.
She did just fine at wrestling Wednesday, going 3-0 in the 116-pound weight class.
Her sophomore teammate, Leila Martin, wrestled at 150 pounds.
“I did judo when I was younger,” she said. (The place where I did judo) closed down, so I went for wrestling.”
Martin is a multi-sport athlete. She plays water polo and is in the Nipomo track program.
Santa Maria junior wrestlers Laura Negrete (237 pounds) and Erika Sierra (108) are also track athletes, throwers, and they both said part of the reason they wrestle is to keep in shape for track.
“I started wrestling my sophomore year,” said Negrete. “I was curious about what it was about.”
Now, “I really like the chemistry on the team,” she said.
Besides wrestling and track, Sierra also plays volleyball.
“You use more muscles in wrestling than you use in any other sport” she said with a smile.
“In wrestling, you use everything.”
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