SELMA - If the Selma girls wrestling team wants to win four-straight state titles, it won’t be easy an road to the tournament in Bakersfield in February.
This season, the Bears will have make a state title run without its top three wrestlers from last year, who were Gracie Figueroa, Alleida Martinez, and Jerzie Estrada. All three wrestlers had undefeated seasons last season for Selma.
“It’s going to be a tough year, but we have the girls that could compete,” Selma co-head coach Joey Areyano said. “We’re not going to be completely out of it. It’s just making the adjustment and just keep working. That’s it, that’s all you could really do. Just hope that they give an all-out effort, that’s all you could ask from them.”
Figueroa and Martinez graduated from Selma High and are currently competing for the women’s wrestling team at Menlo College while Estrada transferred to another high school in Southern California.
“I think with her, we would’ve had a really good chance,” Areyano said about Estrada. “With Jerzie that’s a lot of points lost too. We’re just going to keep working on what we got, we still have some tough girls that are still improving.”
Without those three girls, Areyano expects Ashley Paz, Cristy Wallace, and sisters Melanie and Chelsy Mendoza to step up as the leaders on the team.
“These girls have been putting in some work during the offseason,” Areyano said. “We have a young team. A lot of the teams that we compete with are pretty mature and veteran team.
With Figueroa and Martinez setting a precedent for the program, the Mendoza sisters are ready to become the program’s next “dynamic duo.”
“Gracie and Alledia, they set a good example for us,” Melanie Mendoza said. “We want to follow in their footsteps.”
“We’ve learned a lot from them,” Chelsy Mendoza said. “We’re glad to set another example for the new upcoming wrestlers.”
At last year’s state tournament at the Visalia Convention Center, Chelsy Mendoza placed sixth in the 101-pound weight-class while Melanie Mendoza was forth at 116 pounds. Merijah Morales was another Bear that placed at the state tournament, finishing sixth in the 106-pound weight-class.
The Mendozas both said they want to be on top of the individual podiums at the Rabobank Arena in February, but they also have high expectations for their teammates as well.
“My expectations is our team could win another state title for the fourth time,” Chelsy Mendoza said.
“I think we could really do it this,” Melanie Mendoza said. “If we all work together and push ourselves, it’s really doable.
The CIF moved the state tournament from Visalia to Bakersfield to coincide with the boys tourney. With the boys and girls competing in the same venue, the state tournament will expand from two to three days. The state tournament will occur on Feb. 21-23.
Areyano expects the Mendozas, Paz and Wallace to compete at the three-day state tournament at the Rabobank Arena.
“The Mendozas are returning placers, so we’re expecting a lot from,” Areyano said. “We’re getting that third [state] qualifier now from our section, so hopefully Ashley and Cristy could be potential placers as well.”
The most notable addition to the team is to is coaching staff.
Former Kingsburg Vikings and CIF State champions Marina and Regina Doi were added as assistant coaches before the season.
Areyano said the Doi sisters are “role models” to the girls and are great additions to the coaching staffs.
“They were pretty much the Gracie and Alledia of their time,” Areyano said. “They accomplished big things and I think it’s good to have someone of their calibur, a women’s coach, that have been there and done that.”
So far this season, the girls team has wrestled at three tournaments at Golden Valley, Monache and Covina high schools. The Covina tournament was took place at Southern California on Dec. 21-22.
The Selma girls will return to the mat in 2019 for the 21st Annual True Wrestler Napa Valley Girls Classic at Vintage High School on Jan. 4-5.