Few schools in the Central Section embrace girls wrestling like Selma High.
And no one has been as successful.
Behind four individual champions, the Bears captured a second straight Masters title in a spirited battle with Orange Cove, outpointing the Titans 136-127 on Thursday at Lemoore’s Events Center. Porterville, which won the initial section Masters title in 2013, was third with 112.
Selma qualified 10 of its section-best 15 wrestlers to the Masters and advanced six to the CIF State Girls Championships on Feb. 27-28 at the Visalia Convention Center, including champions Alleida Martinez (103 pounds), Gracie Figueroa (113), Gracie Garcia (172) and Shelby Zarate (191).
“I wouldn’t be wrestling or have a chance at state if not for Selma,” said Figueroa, a freshman ranked No. 4 in the state who improved to 29-0 on the season with an 11-3 major decision over defending section 113-pound champ Priscila Lopez of Edison. “A lot of schools don’t even have girls wrestling. They do a lot for us.”
Much more than most schools, for sure.
Selma has a paid coach in Andy Munoz, one of the few schools in the section to give a stipend to a separate girls wrestling coach.
The Bears went to six girls-only tournaments this year.
And the Bears have more wrestlers on the way. Sam Lopez, the head coach of Selma’s program, said there are four girls competing at the junior high, six in the town’s elementary school program and more and more girls like Ruth Calderon inquiring about wrestling all the time.
Calderon first talked to Lopez about wrestling last season when she was a sophomore. She decided to give it a try this season and ended up pinning Orange Cove’s Gaby Hernandez in 44 seconds of a true second-place match at 162 pounds to earn a berth in the state meet.
“It’s something really great,” said Calderon, an avid Mexican dancer who wanted to get in better shape. “I never thought I’d like this sport as much as I do now.”
Martinez, a freshman, moves on as a favorite to become Selma’s first girls state champion after pinning Arvin’s Yaquelin Ramirez in 3:24 for the section’s 103-pound title. She’s 26-0 and state top-ranked.
“It shows a freshman can do the same things as everyone else,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, I can win at state, too.”
Selma leads the way in a sport that continues to show gradual growth in the section. There were 106 wrestlers from 34 schools entered in the Masters, up from 85 wrestlers and 29 schools last season and 60 wrestlers from 24 schools in 2013.
Orange Cove qualified 12 of its 14 wrestlers to Masters and produced champions in Yasmin Gallardo (123) and Yesica Equihua (133).
“I worked for it and took it,” said Gallardo, who pinned Porterville’s AnaKaren Rodriguez in 3:42 in the 123-pound final.
The Titans, in their second season as a varsity program, held the team lead entering the championship round with three finalists, but couldn’t match Selma’s four champions.
“I have some tough girls willing to try something new,” Orange Cove coach Kim Alves said.
“They are relentless in trying to prove themselves.”
Also winning section titles were Mira Monte’s Angelica Llanes (108), Porterville’s Sabrina Sandoval (118), Lemoore’s Esperanza Cadena (128), Bakersfield’s Abigail Aceves (139), Highland’s Courtney Bojorquez (145), Stockdale’s Kylie Baker (152), Delano’s Lucie Mendoza (162) and Madera South’s Cara Escobedo (237).
Sandoval, Cadena, Bojorquez and Mendoza all captured their second section crowns, while Llanes become a three-time gold medalist.