The size of the Central Section Girls Masters wrestling tournament grew exponentially this season.
So did Selma High’s point total while cruising to a fourth straight team championship.
The Bears crowned six individual champions and qualified seven overall to next weekend’s CIF State Girls Wrestling Championships during a meet-record 244.5-point performance at a tournament that drew 225 competitors to Lemoore High’s Events Center. The section’s Masters tournament had 123 girls last season.
Defending state champ Selma’s trio of U.S. Cadet World Team members – Merijah Morales, Alleida Martinez and Gracie Figueroa – helped lead the way with bonus-points victories in the finals.
Morales pinned Lemoore’s Angelita Sanchez in 1:19 for her second straight title at 106 pounds.
“I’m super excited. I know all the hard work I put in paid off and I get to go back to state and hopefully get what I’ve worked for, to get on top of that podium,” said Morales, who placed sixth at state last season. “I know my team, we can come together again and win it again. We’re an amazing team. We work together. All of us are prepared. We’ve trained all season for this. I know we can put the work on the mat and get it as a team.”
I know my team, we can come together again and win it again. We’re an amazing team. We work together. All of us are prepared. We’ve trained all season for this. I know we can put the work on the mat and get it as a team.
Selma 106-pound Central Section champion Merijah Morales on the Bears’ chances of winning a second straight CIF State team title.
Martinez, who won section and state titles at 101 pounds as a freshman and sophomore, earned her third section gold with a 12-0 major decision over Mt. Whitney’s Ashley Venegas at 111 pounds.
“We took state last year so hopefully we’re going to be able to take it again,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’ve just got to work hard and keep my mindset right.”
And Figueroa, the state and section champ at 111 as a freshman and 116 as a sophomore, made quick work of Ridgeview’s Jenessa Rodriguez with a pin in 1:01 of the 126-pound final.
“It’s another goal set that I’ve accomplished,” Figueroa said. “I think we have a pretty good chance of winning it again (at state). We just got to wrestle our matches. And I feel pretty confident of placing first again. I’ve just got to go out there and win.”
Selma also received individual titles from Melanie Mendoza, who beat Coalinga’s Arrianna Andrus by a 17-1 technical fall at 101 pounds, Alexis Morfin, who edged Golden West’s Jacqueline Flores 7-4 at 131, and Makayla Balladeres, who pinned Highand’s Kiley Alvarez in 3:16 for the 235-pound title.
“I think we did really well,” Balladeres said. “All of us did what we had to do and we made sure we came through.”
Selma’s seventh qualifier for the state championships, set for Feb. 24-25 at the Visalia Convention Center, was 116-pounder Chelsy Mendoza, who earned the berth with a pin of Golden West’s Gladys Saldana in 1:32 during a true-second match. Section runner-ups who didn’t face the third-place finisher during the tournament had to square off for the section berth into the state championships.
The Bears also had seven qualifiers last season when they topped Hillcrest-Riverside 103.0-97.5 for the state team title.
“I’m really proud of my girls,” Selma coach Andy Munoz said. “I believe this team is stronger than last year.”
Tulare’s Jessica Sanchez and Porterville’s Lorna Mendoza each won their second straight section titles, while Anahi Moreno became the first competitor from Mt. Whitney to capture a girls Masters championship.
Sanchez pinned East Bakersfield’s Cindy Pelayo in 1:54 for the 121-pound crown.
“I just went in there and did my thing, everything I’ve been practicing all season,” said Sanchez, who won at 113 pounds last season. “I feel confident. I feel I’ll do really good (at state.)”
Mendoza, who from deficits of 8-2 and 10-6 with a late pin to win at 137 last season, had a much easier time this year by pinning Golden Valley’s Esther Briseno in 51 seconds of the 150-pound final.
“I think the hard work and effort and dedication I put into practice, the hours and all the time I put in has finally paid off and helped me get better and better,” Mendoza said. “I believed in myself before I went in there. I had confidence and I think that helped me make it through the whole match.”
I believed in myself before I went in there. I had confidence and I think that helped me make it through the whole match.
Porterville’s Lorna Mendoza, the Central Section’s 150-pound girls wrestling champion.
Moreno pinned Liberty-Bakersfield’s Chloe Belmen in 3:03 at 137 pounds.
Section titles also went to Kern County competitors Yaquilen Ramierez of Arvin at 116, Golden Valley’s Assata Lewis at 143, South’s Shareni Donis at 160, South’s Stephanie Mota at 170 and Golden Valley’s Kayvett Osorio at 189.
They were all part of the largest girls Masters’ field since the section launched the tournament in 2013 with roughly 40 competitors.
“We’re extremely happy with growth our girls have had,” section assistant commission Jeff Cardoza said. “Selma winning state last year has really driven this.”
Central Section Masters
Team scores: Selma 244.5, Golden Valley 155, Lemoore 152, Golden West 133, Porterville 103, Mt. Whitney 93, South 85, Sanger 81.5, Ridgeview 72, Edison 62, Coalinga 53.5, Shafter 48, Washington 47, Arvin 35, Liberty-Bakersfield 34, Monache 34, Redwood 34, Mira Monte 33, Tulare 30, East Bakersfield 28
101: Melanie Mendoza, Selma, tech fall Arrianna Andrus, Coalinga, 17-1.
106: Merijah Morales, Selma, p. Anelita Sanchez, Lemoore, 1:19. True second: Sanchez p. Noelia Medina, Coalinga, 3:05
111: Alleida Martinez, Selma, maj. d. Ashley Venegas, Mt. Whitney, 12-0.
118: Yaquilen Ramierez, Arvin, p. Gladys Salddana, Golden West, 1:40. True second: Chelsy Mendoza, Selma, p. Saldana, 1:32.
121: Jessica Sanchez, Tulare, p. Cindy Pelayo, East Bakersfield, 1:54.
126: Gracie Figueroa, Selma, p. Jenessa Rodriguez, Ridgeview, 1:01. True second: Rodriguez p. Vanya Mariscal, Golden West, 3:37.
131: Alexis Morfin, Selma, d. Jacqueline Flores, Golden West, 7-4.
137: Anahi Moreno, Mt. Whitney, p. Chloe Belmen, Liberty-Bakersfield, 3:03. True second: Belmen p. Samantha Bautista, Selma, 0:48.
143: Assata Lewis, Golden Valley, d. Gracie Clark, Lemoore, 4-2. True second: Carmen Tapia, Portervillle, d. Clark, 8-5.
150: Lorna Mendoza, Porterville, p. Esther Briseno, Golden Valley, 0:51. True second: Alejandra Escalante, Firebaugh, p. Briseno, 2:57.
160: Shareni Donis, South, d. Avealoumamalu Lefotu, Golden Valley, 3-2. True second: Lefotu p. Gabby Ortiz, Caruthers, 5:08.
170: Stephanie Mota, South, p. Alexis Cruz, Washington, 5:38. True second: Monica Chavez, Golden Valley, p. Cruz, 3:21.
189: Kayvett Osorio, Golden Valley, p. Eunique Barnes, Lemoore, 3:26. True second: Barnes d. Nadia Marquez, Mira Monte, 13-8.
235: Makayla Balladeres, Selma, p. Kiley Alvarez, Highland, 3:16.
* \Weight class champions and runners-up or true second-place finishers, where applicable, advance to the CIF State Championships