CIF girls wrestling finals: Three East County mat women qualify to compete at state championship meet

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The eighth annual San Diego Section girls wrestling championship tournament took place Feb. 9-10 at Sweetwater High School in National City.

When the final whistle had sounded, three East County mat women had punched their ticket to the state championship meet Feb. 23-24 at the Visalia Convention Center.

Granite Hills’s Candee Nunez and Helix’s Destiny Lyng led the charge with section championships at 118 and 139pounds, respectively.

The eighth annual San Diego Section girls wrestling championship tournament took place Feb. 9-10 at Sweetwater High School in National City.

When the final whistle had sounded, three East County mat women had punched their ticket to the state championship meet Feb. 23-24 at the Visalia Convention Center.

Granite Hills’s Candee Nunez and Helix’s Destiny Lyng led the charge with section championships at 118 and 139pounds, respectively.

West Hills’s Diane Baker finished second in her 162-pound weight class to also secure a berth in the upcoming state meet.

Lyng, who will be making her third appearance at the state meet, said her secret to success has been to never let up against an opponent — or herself.

“I never take a day off,” explained Lyng, who placed third at last year’s state finals. “I’m always doing something every day to stay active.”

A total of 221 wrestlers had preregistered for last weekend’s section finals. The tournament continues to grow both in numbers and caliber of competition.

“It’s really grown,” explained San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp, who was on hand to present awards. “It’s an exciting event. It’s great seeing the emotion from the girls.”

Schniepp recalled initial resistance at the state level to establishing girls wrestling as a state championship sport but the sport has now been embraced at the state level.

“It’s really been great for San Diego,” Schniepp said. “It’s been really good for girls.”

The numbers tell the story in the growth of girls wrestling within the section. Wrestlers from 13 different schools won individual section championships this year while wrestlers from 23 schools will represent the section at the upcoming state finals.

That’s a very diverse field.

“It’s come a long way,” explained tournament director Trevor Keifer, who coaches at High Tech High Chula Vista. “We started with about 60 girls and around 20 teams. We had 51 teams represented this year.

“The quality has improved dramatically. We used to see a lot of head-and-arm pins. The sport has gained more prestige. The program heads are starting to show up. We’re seeing bigger teams.”

Mat attack

This year’s competition was spread over two days. Preliminary rounds took place Feb. 9 with medal rounds held the second day.

Girls competed in 14 weight classes. The top two finishers in each weight class qualified to compete in the upcoming state tournament.

The top four girls in each weight class at the section finals received medals.

The 118-pound championship match featured an all-East County matchup between Nunez and Steele Canyon’s Toren Dunbar. Nunez (17-5) won by an 8-4 decision to secure first place in her weight class.

Nunez, who upset top-seeded Victoria Bjork of Westview by a 6-2 decision in the quarterfinals and finished the tournament with two pins, couldn’t hold her emotions at the final buzzer. But they were tears of joy.

Dunbar opened the tournament with three pins to meet Nunez in the final.

Lyng, meanwhile, turned in one of the most dominating performance at this year’s tournament with four pins in as many matches, including three in less than one minute.

Lyng, who has never been pinned, opened the event with pin times of 35 and 23 seconds. She pinned Montgomery’s Lelani Pompa in 1:26 in the semifinals before pinning Westview’s Kira Satnick in 43 seconds in the championship round.

Lyng improved to 19-2 with the 4-0 CIF tournament showing. One of those losses is to Loomis Del Oro’s Candice Corralejo, last year’s state champion.

Lyng feels she is a different wrestler this year, however, and will be out to prove it at the upcoming state finals.

She capped this year’s showing at the section finals by earning the Most Valuable Middle Weight award.

Comeback kids

The section finals format for girls wrestling includes a match for a true second place.

Girls who lost their matches in the finals got a second chance to qualify for the state meet by meeting the consolation bracket winner for second place.

Steele Canyon’s Dunbar continued in the tournament following her finals loss to Nunez. Dunbar drew La Costa Canyon’s Cora Johnson-Woessner in the true second place match, with the winner guaranteed a berth in the state finals.

Johnson-Woessner won by a 2:38 pin.

Dunbar officially was awarded third place in the weight class.

Baker secured her state-qualifying berth via the true second place match, although she did it from a different route.

Baker lost by a 45-second pin to top-seeded Karolina Valenzuela in the quarterfinals but battled through the wrestle-backs with four consecutive pins, including two sub-minute pins, to emerge as the consolation bracket winner.

Baker then advanced to meet San Diego’s Dulce Patino, who had lost by a 2:13 pin to Montgomery’s Larissa Vasquez in the finals.

Baker defeated Patino by a 12-4 major decision to secure the true second place and a coveted state-qualifying berth.

Mountain Empire’s Rose Buel (191 pounds) and Mount Miguel’s Kerri Gordon (237 pounds) both finished third in their respective weights via a tiebreaker rule.

If a true second-place pairing features a rematch from a previous round, the result from that previous round is used rather than having the opponents re-wrestle.

Buel had previously lost to Otay Ranch’s Aylin Salas by a 6-3 decision in the semifinals.

Gordon had previously lost to Hoover’s Angelica Bautista by a 3:46 pin in the semifinals.

Thus, both Salas and Bautista were awarded second place and a trip to the state meet.

Buel and Gordon both successfully wrestled back to win the consolation bracket in a bid to qualify for the state meet.

Buel pinned Escondido’s Perla Ramirez in 2:45 while Gordon pinned Westview’s Jenna Collins in 1:38.

Mount Miguel’s Jennifer Vaughn (128) and Shandel Moncivais (133) both finished fourth in their respective weight classes.

West Hills’ Allyson Byus (118), Helix’s Alyssa Campos (133) and Mount Miguel’s Stephanie Szumilos (191) all posted fifth-place finishes.

Granite Hills’s Kailey Smith finished sixth at 108 pounds.

Other section champions included Torrey Pines’s Emily Sway (103), Hilltop’s Jasmine Plasencia (108), Ramona’s Savannah Kiddoo (113), Olympian’s Alexa Downs (123), Lincoln’s Phonisha Pruitt (128), Clairemont’s Anne-Marie Maskalenko (133), La Costa Canyon’s Maddie Konopka (145), Otay Ranch’s Dayna Mitchem (152), Montgomery’s Larisa Vasquez (162) and Jasmin Ballesteros (172), San Pasqual’s Emily Velazquez (191) and El Camino’s Madlyne Navarro (237).

Pruitt (24-0), Konopka (12-0) and Navarro (12-0) all posted undefeated seasons at the section level.

Kiddoo (lower weight) and Otay Ranch’s Mitchem (upper weight) also received most valuable wrestler awards.

San Pasqual, which field wrestlers in all 14 weight classes, won the team title with 148.5 points. Otay Ranch, which brought eight wrestlers to the tournament, finished second with 115.5 points.

Mount Miguel finished in ninth place with 68 points. Helix (17th,  47 points), West Hills (19th, 45 points) and Granite Hills (20th, 43 points) all finished among the top 20 scoring teams.

Add CIF

The boys individual wrestling championships will take place Feb. 17 at four sites around the section. Wrestlers will be out to earn a spot in the following weekend’s San Diego Masters state qualifying tournament.

Canyon Crest Academy will host the Division I tournament while Poway High School will host the Division II tournament.

Montgomery High School will host the Division III tournament while Mater Dei Catholic High School will host the Division IV tournament.

Olympian High School in Chula Vista will host the two-day Masters tournament Feb. 23-24.

The state finals are scheduled March 2-3 in Bakersfield.

Helix will compete at the Division I tournament while Granite Hills, Grossmont, Steele Canyon and Valhalla will compete at the Division II tournament.

El Capitan, El Cajon Valley, Monte Vista, Santana and West Hills will compete at the Division III tournament while Mount Miguel, Mountain Empire and Christian will compete at the Division IV tournament.

The top seven place-finishers at the Division I and Division II tournaments advance to the Masters meet while the top six place-finishers at the Division III tournament do so. Only the top four place-finishers at the Division IV tournament receive automatic Masters qualifying slots.

The section dual meet championship took place Feb. 10 at Rancho Bernardo High School. Division champions included San Marcos (Division I), Poway (Division II), Brawley (Division III) and Ramona (Division IV).

Runner-up teams included Vista (Division I), Rancho Bernardo (Division II), University City (Division III) and Valley Center (Division IV).

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