A year ago, Pacheco’s Taryn Mitchell and Maria Quiroz were the first female wrestlers at the school to qualify for the CIF State Girls Wrestling Tournament.
Quiroz graduated last year, but Mitchell is a senior, and her road back to the state tournament begins today at the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Invitational, which sends the top five placers to the state tournament. And Mitchell is far from alone – Pacheco will send 12 wrestlers to the section tournament at McNair High in Stockton.
As a senior and state qualifier, Mitchell takes the idea of being a role model for her teammates seriously.
“I wrote an essay, and I went through it and I realized how much wrestling meant to me, and how much it’s improved me as a person – it changed me,” Mitchell said. “It’s helped a lot, and it made me an amazing wrestler, which means I can be a role model to all these girls. It helps me become a better person.”
Mitchell and two of her teammates are ranked in the top six in the SJS by The California Wrestler – Mitchell is No. 3 at 133 pounds, Sandra Morales is No. 3 at 128 and Myranda Velasquez is No. 4 at 162. For Mitchell (12-2 this year) the key to success is as much mental as is is technique or physicality.
“What to expect, if anything, they need to have a positive mind going in, because all of those girls in there, they’re just girls,” Mitchell said. “If you take off their singlets and the headgear and everything, they’re just a simple girl. It’s really what you believe. If you believe in yourself and what your heart wants, you should act how you’re supposed to be, a professional wrestler. Just work your heart out, and do what you love.
“Hopefully this year I get to place (at state), and I’ll be able to start a new tradition for Pacheco Panther lady wrestlers.”
Pacheco coach Michael Singh said he expects three of his wrestlers to qualify, and hopes for as many as five.
“We’ve got about four other girls that I think have a really good chance,” Singh said. “Sandra Morales, she showed a lot of heart his year, had some tough matches this year. Myranda Lamela at 134, she’s been one of our biggest improvements. Then another sophomore at 139, Kayla Lindsey. It’s her first year wrestling with us, and she’s done really well. I’m hoping that’s a possibility. Then Myranda Velasquez is one of the girls ranked in our section. They’ve got a good chance of making it to state.”
Across town, Los Banos’ Carla Diaz knows what it’s like to be one of the wrestlers on the outside looking in after finished sixth at the section tournament last year – one spot away from qualifying. This year, Diaz is ranked No. 1 in the section at 152 pounds.
“It motivated me a lot, considering it was my first year going,” Diaz said. “When I went, I was in the outbracket. So I wrestled the No. 1 seed. Now, being ranked the No. 1 seed, it motivates me a lot more.”
Diaz has already wrestled No. 2-ranked Madison Bozovich of Tokay, defeating her 12-9 at the Bear Creek Girls Invitational, and is pretty sure Bozovich is painting a target on her back. She doesn’t know too much about the rest of the field, but that doesn’t matter too much to her.
“I’m just going to wrestle whoever they put in front of me,” Diaz said.
Like Pacheco, the Tigers have three wrestlers ranked by The California Wrestler – in addition to Diaz at No. 1, Taylor Silva is No. 6 at 123 pounds and Olga Valenzuela is No. 6 at 162. The Tigers will send six wrestlers total (maybe seven, if one sees rapid improvement in an injury).
“Whole lot of state-ranked girls will be there,” Los Banos girls and JV coach Jose Castro said. “Every weight’s going to be difficult, but we’re looking good in four weights. At this point, everybody’s going to be tough.”
The girls side of the sport has seen rapid growth in the last few years. The 19 female wrestlers will be the most the town has sent to the girls section tournament. Castro said 41 schools are registered with varying amounts of girls, from Bear Creek’s full lineup of 14 and Livingston’s 12 down to schools with one or two entrants.
“For the most part, everything the girls have been going to, the numbers are just climbing at a high rate,” Castro said. “We went to Napa this year, and there were over 100 teams and 400 girls. So the number of girls just keeps getting bigger.”