Through its four seasons of existence, the Valencia wrestling program has continued to raise its bar of program-bests with ease.
That was still the case at Saturday’s CIF-Southern Section girls wrestling championships at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Corona.
America Lopez (170 pounds) and Priscilla Ramirez (116) placed in the top eight of their weight classes, advancing to the CIF State meet on Feb. 23 at the Visalia Convention Center.
It marked the first time in program history that two girls wrestlers advanced to the state meet. Ramirez’s sister, Roxy, was the first to do it last season.
“It’s a great feeling but it’s kind of what we expected all along,” said Valencia coach Brian Peterson. “When you put in the work like we have, you can expect those kinds of results.”
Even with the program’s historical day, it was hard not to ask, “What if?”
Lopez, a freshman, placed second in her weight division to Murrieta Valley’s Kiri Schell. Lopez carried a 6-1 lead into the third and final period of the first-place match. She began the period in the bottom position and while attempting to make her way to her feet to increase her lead, she slipped and fell, opening the door for Schell to pin her and take the win.
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“When you’re on the bottom, it’s not really a huge risk,” Peterson said. “She tried a maneuver that was ill-advised and when someone gets on top of you like that toward the end of the match, it’s hard to recover.
“It was definitely a letdown but it’s going to be a learning experience for her.”
Along with Lopez’s mishap, the Vikings narrowly missed out on sending a third wrestler to the state championships. Shani Tyson lost her match to secure at least an eighth-place finish, which is the minimum lace needed to advance.
“It was a one-point match; just didn’t go her way,” Peterson said of Tyson.
Priscilla Ramirez will follow in her sister’s footsteps by advancing to this year’s state meet after placing sixth in her weight division.
Ramirez and Lopez won their respective weight divisions at the CIF-SS team championships on Feb. 3. Peterson said he would be surprised if his freshman phenom, Lopez, didn’t medal (top eight finish) at the state meet.
Chance Rich became the first medalist in program history last season. The Cal State Bakersfield commit finished sixth in the 120-pound division.
“It’s going to be a hard mountain for (Lopez) to climb, but she can make it there,” Peterson said. “The matches are going to be close but she’s capable of doing it. And if not, we have three more years to work with her.”