The popularity of girls high school wrestling is growing across the state since it began in 2006. Look no further than Nipomo High School as an example.
“We have seen our numbers grown from 14 in year one, to 18 in year two, to 22 this season,” Nipomo coach Justin Magdaleno said about the only girls wrestling team in San Luis Obispo County. “We have a great, hard-working core group of freshman and sophomores combined with strong upperclassmen leadership and ability.”
One of the strongest upperclassmen — both literally and figuratively — is junior heavyweight Alexis Garcia. Her nickname, “Crush,” says a lot about her wrestling style.
Garcia and nine of her teammates are set to hit the mats at the CIF Southern Section Girls Wrestling Championships at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale on Friday and Saturday.
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“Crush” will enter as the No. 1 seed in the Southern Section heavyweight weight class.
“She has wrestled everyone in the top eight — with the exception of one this season — or has a win over a common opponent,” Magdaleno said. “She is wrestling really well right now and is determined be a CIF Southern Section Champion.”
Garcia will be joined by freshman Alicia Arroyo (101-pound class), freshman Abril Sanchez (106), sophomore Mack Wisneski (111), freshman Kayla Duran (131), sophomore Sam Morin (137), senior Tenessa Padilla (143), freshman Allyson Castillo (150), freshman Briana Alvarado (160) and sophomore Natalya Nievez (189).
Ten of the 13 wrestlers earned a spot by placing at the CIF Southern Section Northern Division Regional held at Pioneer Valley High School last weekend.
Magdaleno, graduate of Cal Poly who also teaches pre-algebra and world history at Nipomo, credits the Lucia Mar School District for providing stipends that allow the girls team to have different coaches and different wrestling facilities — a luxury not afforded to most schools.
“I don’t look at them as boys or girls. I look at them as wrestlers,” Magdaleno said. “I train these girls to be wrestlers, meaning hard-nosed, tough, but most importantly, resilient.”
But Magdaleno does acknowledge that girls are much more flexible than boys, so techniques and finishing moves requires a different approach.
Whatever the approach, the techniques are working.
Nipomo placed in the top 10 of every tournament it participated in this season. Wisneski placed in the top eight of each tournament and finished with a 27-13 for the season. Duran placed at half of her tournaments and is 25-15 this season.
“I love to see girls throughout the season grow more self confident, physically and mentally stronger, and embody the mentality of, if they hard work and are determined they can accomplish anything,” Magdaleno said. “Our central theme this year is believe. They have to believe they can be great and successful.”
The top eight from the CIF Southern Section Girls Championship in each weight class will earn spots in the CIF State Girls Wrestling Championships Feb. 26-27 in Visalia.