Visalia’s first day of hosting the CIF State Girls Wrestling Championships went as smoothly as possible, but the day was not so kind to the local competitors Friday at the Visalia Convention Center.
As the tournament ran as much as two hours ahead of schedule, Redwood’s Brenda Espitia was eliminated even faster. Visalia’s only wrestler in the draw was pinned in 80 seconds during her first round match and lasted only 2:24 in the 116-pound consolation bracket.
Espitia’s quick exit began with an unfortunate draw. She was paired against Albany’s Eva Piroth, who was ranked No. 2 in the state but did not earn one of the top four seeds after losing at her section tournament.
Espitia and Piroth quickly hit the mat with each wrestler grasping the leg of the other. Once Piroth broke free and established control, however, it didn’t take long for her to manipulate a pin.
The first round of consolation paired Espitia against Prospect’s Kate Boccone. Espitia nearly took a lead in the opening period as she gained control of Boccone’s leg while still in a standing position, but she couldn’t land a takedown before her opponent moved the action out of bounds.
The Ranger quickly shot in on Boccone again once play resumed, but this time she ran out of time before scoring. Period 2 played out much differently, with Boccone taking Espitia down from a neutral start and pinning her shortly after.
Espitia entered the tournament fresh off winning a Central Section Masters championship, but she wasn’t nearly as sharp when stepping onto an even bigger stage in her hometown.
Redwood coach Dave Watts said the competition level isn’t much different from Masters to state. He even noted that some wrestlers Espitia beat this year were winning on other mats at the Convention Center, but his wrestler may have made the jump more of a mental hurdle than it needed to be.
Watts hoped Espitia’s equally brief stint at last year’s state tournament would have helped her in a return to the highest level. Now they are just left hoping a third time will be the charm during her senior season in 2015.
Also eliminated on Day 1 of the tournament was freshman Elena Bracamontes from Granite Hills at 143 pound. That leaves Brittany Wynn (106) – another freshman from Granite Hills – and Porterville’s Sabrina Sandoval (111) left to carry the torch for Tulare County.
Wynn lost her opening match 7-4 against No. 2 seeded Harmonie Roberts from Ukiah before earning major decision victory 11-1 against Destiny Salinas from Coachella Valley in the consolation bracket. Wynn begins Day 2 against Telma Tavares from Overfelt and also needs to beat Marissa Gutierrez from Steele Canyon to advance to the medal rounds.
Sandoval represents the county’s best shot at bringing home a medal after her third place finish in last year’s tournament. She drew a first round bye and defeated Makayla Bourbon from Pioneer Valley 6-2 in the second round. Bourbon had beaten Sandoval earlier this season at the Lady Baler Bash in Hollister.
“That was a little revenge,” Porterville coach Tim Vanni said.
Sandoval then ran into top seeded Lauren Mason from Woodcreek during the quarterfinals and suffered an 11-2 loss by major decision.
“The score indicates a dominant performance but it was really a lot closer than the score indicates,” Vanni said. “She had one nice takedown in there and didn’t quite pursue offense like we would have liked her to.”
The loss drops Sandoval into the consolation bracket where she awaits the winner of Nicole Mattz from Del Norte and Ashley Munoz from Beaumont. A win will advance her to the medal rounds.
“She’s a strong girl,” Vanni said. “I believe she’ll come back and have a good tournament. I’m not really worried about matching her third place from last year. We’re not that far ahead. We’re looking at the next match and trying to correct the little things – be a little bit more aggressive on offense, take control of the match a little more.
“It’s going to be a battle. There’s a lot of good girls at this weight.”
Northview leads the team standings with 54 points, followed by Albany (46), Pioneer Valley (35), James Logan (28), Bear Creek (26), Santa Ana (25), West Covina (22), Lincoln-S (21), Tokay (20), Castlemont (20) and Mountain View (20).