Porterville’s Sabrina Sandoval may have finished as the county’s only wrestler on the podium, but she wasn’t comparing herself to any other wrestlers from the area.
No, Sandoval was simply comparing herself to her own third place performance at last year’s state tournament — a mindset that ironically may have prevented her from matching or surpassing that finish as she ended up in sixth place at 111 pounds.
“I had a lot of people looking at me thinking I was going to place higher this year,” Sandoval said. “I was putting a lot of pressure on me and just constantly thinking about having to win instead of focusing on one match at a time.”
On Friday Sandoval advanced to the quarterfinals before losing 11-2 against eventual champion Lauren Mason from Woodcreek. She started Saturday with a 4-3 win against Beaumont’s Ashley Munoz to secure a spot in the medal rounds.
Sandoval built an early 3-0 lead but lost it on a reversal with 1 minute and 30 seconds left in the match. Tied 3-3, she then escaped with 40 seconds left to go up 4-3. Both wrestlers nearly landed takedowns in the final 15 seconds, but the clock ran out before either could score.
Sandoval went on to beat Mt. Pleasant’s Martina Valdez 5-2 before falling against eventual third place medalist Annastassia from Elk Grove in the consolation semifinals. She the failed to score a point during a 7-0 loss to No. 4 seeded Aleeah Gould from Canyon in the fifth place match.
“I didn’t come out strong enough,” Sandoval said. “I wasn’t that aggressive. I didn’t prepare myself well.”
Cheering Sandoval from the coach’s corner of the mat all weekend long was her older brother Martin Sandoval. Martin, who recently finished his freshman wrestling season at Fresno City College, won a third place state medal for Porterville last year one weekend after Sabrina won a third place state medal of her own.
“We have a close relationship,” Sabrina said. “He helps me out a lot. He’s an inspiration to me. I look up to him so it’s hard sometimes when you lose.”
Martin said he gets more nervous watching his sister’s matches than wrestling his own.
Younger brother Joey Sandoval, who outweighs both Martin and Sabrina as a 170-pound eighth grader, add another element to the mix and should be a stud for Porterville’s high school team as early as next season.
There’s no telling how nervous Martin must get then when the three siblings wrestle each other at home on the mat in their garage.
“I’m sure [Martin] has probably beaten [Sabrina] up a little bit at home,” Porterville coach Tim Vanni said. “Sabrina’s younger brother [Joey] wrestles as well so she’s probably picking on him and passing it down the line. It’s kind of a family affair.”