With 30 seconds remaining in her match, Ysabella Hinojosa was well on her way to winning a California Wrestling Folkstyle Wrestling title.
But as quickly as she could imagine standing on the podium, she was on her back and looking at the lights.
“Heartbreak, basically,” Hinojosa said. “I got flipped and pinned because I wasn’t at the top of my game. And it was really hard emotionally. I think we almost took the whole summer off.”
After missing out on a state title for six years straight, the 12-year-old Canyon Country resident spent the following months relaxing. But when wrestling season started up again, she was focused.
“I set my goals for nationals,” Hinojosa, who wrestles for Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, said. “And so I knew what I wanted, I knew exactly how I wanted to do it and stuff, so I just worked so hard for that.”
Hinojosa did more than reach nationals. From January to June she took first place in four different tournaments – the CAGWA Folkstyle Super Tournament, the CAUSA Folkstyle State Tournament, the US Marine Corps Girls Folkstyle Nationals and the CAUSA Freestyle State Tournament.
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Her win at the Freestyle State Tournament secured a Triple Crown for Hinojosa, which is earned by taking the top spot at a minimum of two state and one national event.
“That’s been part of her growth. Taking a loss and understanding that we’ve got to bounce back from those losses,” said Mike Duran, who coaches Hinojosa at Titan Mercury, “and that’s really been one of the things that we’ve worked on this year is focusing on putting losses behind us and moving forward towards that goal.”
When she was four years old, Hinojosa’s parents enrolled her in a self-defense class that took place at the same time as a wrestling practice. With two older brothers who wrestled, Hinojosa’s interest was piqued.
“After she finished the self-defense, she says ‘I want to wrestle,’” said Hinojosa’s father, Sam. “I couldn’t get my head around it.”
For two years, Hinojosa repeatedly asked to wrestle. Finally breaking down, Sam took his daughter to the now-defunct Big John McCarthy’s Ultimate Training Academy. Hinojosa spent a few years at the gym, but wasn’t getting the results or support she wanted.
Realizing that she wanted to take wrestling seriously, she began training with Titan Mercury, a successful club that is known for its girls wrestling program. Hinojosa has now been with Titan Mercury for over two years.
“Most girls, they come in shy but once she got comfortable she was ready to work hard and it’s been fun. She’s fun to work with,” said Duran, who is the women’s high school elite coach with Titan Mercury.
Working with the club has taken Hinojosa’s abilities to new levels. Physically, she’s become more aggressive. Mentally, she’s become tougher.
The week of the Marine Corps Girls Folkstyle Nationals, Hinojosa broke her right pinky finger during a practice. Doctors recommended she didn’t wrestle in the upcoming tournament.
Hinojosa and her dad decided to fly out to Oklahoma City for the tournament anyway, at least to watch. They had already paid for everything, so why not? When they got to the event, however, Hinojosa couldn’t stay away from the mat.
“I was like, no I’m ready. I’m going to have them tape it, so we taped it all around my hand and I wrestled with a broken finger,” she said. “…I wasn’t really thinking about my broken finger, but more as how much the nationals win would mean to me.”
Now that she’s achieved her goal of winning a national competition and more, Duran is focused on traveling to more tournaments across the country and getting some work in at the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs.
Hinojosa is more than ready.
“It might get hard. It gets rough sometimes. That’s wrestling,” she said. “It might not be comfortable or whatever, it’s not very glamorous, but it’s definitely a lot of fun if you have the right people.”