The athletes, coaches and fans, they arrive in Orange and Black, and it’s unmistakable now.
No one has it going in state high school girls wrestling like Selma High School, and the might of the Bears thundered throughout the Visalia Convention Center on Saturday night.
“You feel the attention,” Gracie Figueroa said, “and you just have to smile and keep going.”
So she did, as fellow junior teammate Alleida Martinez did, and so did the Selma team, which not only captured a second-straight CIF State team title, but in runaway fashion.
Figueroa and Martinez each won third consecutive individual crowns, and Merijah Morales (fourth, 106), Melanie Mendoza (fifth, 101) and Alexis Morfin (seventh, 131) also placed as the Bears compiled 111 points in the two-day, sixth-annual event.
Corona (83 points) of the Southern Section, Tokay-Lodi (73 1/2 ) of the Sac-Joaquin, Del Oro-Loomis (73) of the Sac-Joaquin and Hillcrest-Riverside (72) of the Southern were wrestling for second.
Selma had defeated Hillcrest by 5 1/2 points for the 2016 team championship.
Also placing from the Central Section were Tulare sophomore Jessica Sanchez (third, 121), Lemoore senior Angelita Sanchez (sixth, 106) and Coalinga junior Arriannna Andrus (seventh, 101).
So dominant was Selma, the Central Sequoia League program from south Fresno County, the team championship was decided before the finals began.
And that mattered.
“Knowing that we already had it locked,” said Figueroa, “I didn’t have to rush my moves and get myself in danger.”
Is she ever?
“I knew I had to get pins so we could win the team title,” she said.
And she delivered them in all five of her matches – for 30 team points – in the weekend, the last in the second period for the 126-pound gold against Sultana-Hesperia sophomore Suzy Chiquito, who arrived at merely 33-0.
That closed a 40-0 season for Figueroa, who is 106-0 in her three-year career.
Martinez, like Figueroa, of World Junior caliber, is now 72-0 in hers after punctuating a 22-0 season by defeating Gridley’s Michael Curry 4-0 for the 111-pound crown. The Sac-Joaquin Section senior entered the match 32-1.
Martinez, who opened Friday with a bye, advanced to the final with three pins.
“It feels great knowing we got (the team title) again,” she said, “and it’s great helping something like that.”
Figueroa and Martinez next year will attempt to join Alyssa LaFrancis (West Covina/Poway/Rancho Buena Vista, 2012-15) and Gabrielle Garcia (Valencia, 2013-16) as the only four-time state champions in a tournament that will return to Visalia for a fifth straight year in the city’s final year of a contract with the CIF. The host site will then be reviewed, said Central Section associate commissioner Jeff Cardoza.
The Selma tandem, however, will attempt to do what LaFrancis and Garcia didn’t – go unbeaten for their careers.
“Yes. Yes a lot,” said Martinez. “You just go out there and wrestle your match; it’s up to you.”
Selma became the first repeat team champion since West Covina in the first two years of the event.
Yet Figueroa and Martinez, supported by a large Selma group in the middle and front rows of the downtown arena’s south side, took it in stride, without grandstanding.
“At the end of the day, they’re still just girls who do girl things,” said Bears coach Andy Munoz. “But, when they put on their wrestling shoes and go to practice, it’s all about business.”