FRESNO - Former Selma High wrestlers Gracie Figueroa and Alleida Martinez returned the Central Valley as clinicians of the Fresno State Women’s Wrestling Camp on June 26-28.

The three-day camp hosted approximately 70 wrestlers ranging from the youth to high school levels. The event took place at the South Gym on campus.

“I like to show girls that they could do it,” Martinez said. “I heard this is also a great turnout because I heard the guys don’t get this many and this is the first one. It’s going to be even better for years to come.”

The three days featured multiple sessions that focused on several techniques and implementing those techniques in a live wrestling drill. The second and third days began with a 1 ½ mile run in the mornings.

Sarah Hildebrandt was the camp’s head counselor while Erin Golston was another clinician. Hildebrandt and Golston are among the nation’s top wrestlers in their respective weight classes.

Having Figueroa and Martinez in addition to Hildebrandt and Golston was vital for Fresno State wrestling coach Troy Steiner.

“They’re the future stars in not only in this area, but in USA wrestling,” Stenier said about Figueroa and Martinez. “It’s about the young girls coming up underneath them and they could really help these young girls as they look to maybe aspire to do the same.”

Taking part of the camp was vital for Martinez and Figueroa because it provided girls from the Valley and throughout the state a chance to learn the sport or improve their skills.

“This is just amazing, honestly, seeing all these girls in California,” Figueroa said. “None of them have to go to a different state to get this.”

When Figueroa and Martinez were asked by Bulldogs assistant coach Israel Silva to be involved in the camp, it was a no brainer for them to participate.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for all the young ladies in California to have this experience of an all-girls camp,” Figueroa said. “The sport has grown so much and I’m really excited to see this and to be able to participate and help the youth.”

“It was a great turnout,” Martinez said. “These girls are doing good and I like to see the growth wrestling, women’s wrestling, specifically.”

Steiner said he wanted to provide an opportunity for young girls to learn from some of the country’s best wrestlers. The growth and interest of women’s wrestling in the Valley influenced Steiner to organize the camp.

“We wanted to represent the Valley,” Steiner said. “Wrestling is big in the Valley in both the men’s and women’s side. We wanted to provide an opportunity for the young girls here to come to a camp where they’re being taught by other females that have gone through what they’re going through now and just to learn from them.”

With the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics recommending all three divisions to add women’s wrestling as emerging sport, Steiner said he envisions Fresno State could implement a program in the future.

“I think there’s interest,” Steiner said. “If [the administration] were to pick up a sport, why not women’s wrestling?”

If the recommendation, which was made on June 3, is approved, women’s wrestling, along with acrobatics and tumbling would be added as emerging sports on Aug. 1, 2020.

As for Figueroa and Martinez, they recently completed their freshman season at Menlo College. For the Oaks women’s wrestling team, Figueroa and Martinez each claimed Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA) national championships in February. They were the program’s first two freshman national champions since 2014. Martinez later won a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national title in March. At the same tournament, Figueroa was a finalist in her weight class.

They were also part of Menlo’s first NAIA and WCWA championship winning team in the program’s history.

During their prep careers at Selma, Figueroa and Martinez were four-time undefeated CIF State champions and were the first pair of wrestlers to accomplish the feat.

Up next for Selma’s “dynamic duo” is competing at the United World Wrestling Junior World Championships at Tallinn, Estonia on August 12-18. Figueroa and Martinez didn’t make the United States national team for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games but competing at the Olympic level is still in their sights.

“We’re still young, we still have a few more years to be wrestling,” Figueroa said. “We’re going to go out there and show them that us young people can hang with the best girls in the world.”

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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