Out of five dozen rising California teenage wrestling stars entered in the nation’s toughest tournament, only one even reached the finals.
Say hello to Clovis North High incoming freshman Ryan Franco, the runner-up at 126 pounds this week at the Cadet Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota.
A round-of-32 match wound up his biggest scare on his way to the final, with Franco in the closing seconds scoring a takedown of Sincere Bailey of Park Forest, Illinois.
Franco and Selma’s Richard Figueroa and Jace Luchau were among only seven wrestlers from the state to earn All-America status by medaling at the tournament. Figueroa was third at 100 pounds and Luchau third at 145.
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The Cadet age group is for wrestlers born in 2001-2002.
At the junior level, for those born after August 1997 and in grades 9-12, Tyler Deen, an incoming junior at Buchanan High, was fourth at 132. Mission Oak graduate and Michigan State-bound Jaden Enriquez was fifth at 138. Enriquez was a CIF State champion at 138 this past season.
Among the Cadet Women, Selma’s Merijah Morales and Melanie Mendoza finished sixth and seventh, respectively, at 112; Mt. Whitney’s Ashley Venegas was seventh at 117; and Tulare’s Jessica Sanchez fourth at 127.
Selma girls part of milestone rankings – In the latest sign of growth for girls high school teams, three top wrestling entities have combined to release the gender’s first national rankings, and a pair of stars from two-time defending state champion Selma are No. 1.
Alleida Martinez is top-ranked at 112 while Grace Figueroa leads the way at 127. Both are three-time CIF State champions. Sanchez is fifth at 127.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, USA Wrestling and FloWrestling released the rankings ahead of Nationals.
More than 13,000 girls compete nationally on the high school level, representing 2,000 high schools, according to participation statistics from the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“One of the best ways to grow our sport is through increased participation from female athletes,” National Wrestling Hall of Fame Executive Director Lee Roy Smith said. “We all feel that it is time for our female wrestlers to be awarded the same opportunities as male wrestlers, and having regular national rankings is a positive step towards making that happen.”