The Valencia girls wrestling team is 3-for-3 when it comes to sending wrestlers to the CIF State Championships this season. Meaning, there are three girls on the team and all three will compete at the state level this weekend.
“That’s awesome. Look what we’ve become. It’s so cool. It’s awesome. You know, we started off like, no one knowing us and then going to these tournaments and just getting on these girls,” said the Vikings’ America Lopez as she pounded her fist into her palm. “And now they’re like, ‘Oh the Valencia girls.’ So like they know who we are and it feels good.”
Lopez, Priscilla Ramirez and Shani Tyson will all be competing at the CIF State Tournament at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield on Thursday, Friday and Saturday after qualifying for the event by placing ninth or higher at the CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet on Feb. 15 and 16.
Lopez and Ramirez will both be making their second appearance at the state level, while Tyson will have her state debut. She’ll be wrestling in the 131-pound weight class this weekend.
“She has her techniques that she’s really good at and it’s a lot of stuff that kind of trumps other people’s techniques,” said coach Jeff Pumilio of Tyson. “And I would say Shani’s toughness is her No. 1 thing. She doesn’t give up. Shani, of all the girls and all the kids on the team, Shani wants to win more than anybody.”
Last season, Ramirez came in eighth at the state tournament. This year, she’ll face tough competition again in the 121-pound weight class.
Pumilio said that Ramirez has come a long way since beginning wrestling as a freshman, especially in terms of fine-tuning her technique.
“Priscilla is a steady-paced person. Every day, the daily grind,” Pumilio said. “She’s probably by far the most consistent wrestler. She’s very consistent, she’s here all the time, she listens.”
Although she’s the youngest of the trio, Lopez (170) enters this weekend’s tournament as the girls team’s most decorated wrestler. She placed second at last year’s Masters Meet before taking fifth at the state tournament.
Ahead of this year’s state tournament, she’s been working on the more technical aspects of her wrestling as well as becoming more efficient from the bottom position, rather than relying on her strength of the neutral position.
“I’m getting more comfortable on top and bottom,” Lopez said. “Right now I’m really comfortable with the bottom, getting up because I know I can get up. So I’m going to get up.”
She’s also seen most of the wrestlers she’ll be facing this weekend already at the Masters Meet, giving her the advantage of planning for her opponents.
“I already know half of the girls,” Lopez said. “That’s better for me to like, already know how they wrestle and that can put me in a good spot and see what I have to work on.”
The Valencia boys wrestling team will also be in Bakersfield this weekend for the state tournament. Ben Gould, Jake Quintana and Braden Smelser will each be wrestling after qualifying in the CIF-SS Masters Meet.
Gould won the title in the 195-pound weight class, while extending his undefeated streak to 42-0. It will be the senior’s first trip to the state tournament, along with Quintana, a freshman, and Smelser, a junior.
The CIF State Championships begin on Thursday at 9 a.m. at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield and will conclude on Saturday with the championship finals at 5:05 p.m. The tournament can be streamed live on flowrestling.org.