After being derailed by injuries during a rebuilding 2018-19 campaign, the Selma girls wrestling team expects to return on top this season.
“We have a young group of talented girls,” Bears head coach Joey Areyano said. “Now it's just time to put in the work and keep them injury free.”
Last season, Selma’s three-year state title run ended after the program finished in a tie for 10th place at the CIF State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield last February. It was the first time in four years that the Bears didn’t have a girl wrestle in the finals.
At the Mechanics Bank Arena - then known as Rabobank Arena - sisters Chelsy and Melanie Mendoza were the only wrestlers to get on the podium for Selma. Chelsy Mendoza placed seventh in the 101-pound weight class while Melanie Mendoza finished fourth in the 121-pound division.
Melanie Mendoza finished in fourth place after losing 3-1 to Evelyn Calhoon of Menlo Atherton in the 121 pound third place bout. Melanie Mendoza was put into the consolation bracket after losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Adriana Lopez of Upper Lake. Melanie Mendoza finished the three-day tournament with a 4-2 record.
With Chelsy graduating from Selma High, Melanie Mendoza is the Bears’ only returning state placer and seeks for a higher finish after coming close to the finals last season.
“Honestly, just keep doing with I’m doing, working hard and believe in myself,” Mendoza said. “That was one of the things that I had trouble with last year. I didn’t believe in myself that I could do anything.”
Mendoza’s coaches also have high expectations for the senior, who has also provided leadership, Areyano said.
“She’s most decorated wrestler on the team,” Areyano said.
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Mendoza entered her senior season on FloWrestling’s national girls high school preseason rankings. She was ranked No. 9 in the 117-pound weight class and was one of two Selma wrestlers to make the rankings. The other wrestler was freshman Arieana Arias, who was ranked No. 10 at 112 pounds.
“As long as everybody does what they need to do, we could get the job done,” Mendoza said about the team’s state title aspirations. “I could win state and we could win state as a team.
Other returning wrestlers include Chrissy Wallace and Arykah Cuevas, who also competed in last year’s state tourney. Cuevas went 3-2 before being eliminated in the consolation bracket in the 235-pound weight class.
Areyano expects both Wallace and Cuevas to qualify for this year’s state tournament.
“Wallace is also a senior and we expect her to make it to the show,” Areyano said. “We’re also returning Arykah Cuevas, who is I believe a junior, and she’s ranked fifth in the state right now. She’s a heavyweight for us and that’s what we need. We need those big pins and those come from the heavyweights so she could add on a lot of points to that state run.”
Areyano said last season was an injury plagued year for multiple girls, but with a young crop of wrestlers including Arias and Nadine Quijada, who are both freshmen, he expects the Bears get back in the state title hunt.
“State championship, that’s it” Areyano said. “We have the girls to do it. I really believe these girls could make a big impact, especially as young as they are. I’m not trying to count my chickens before they hatch, but if things go right and we stay healthy, why can’t we win two or three more states titles? We have a good group of girls and we have good leadership. We should be okay.”
The girls began the 2019-20 season at the RM Parks Ladies Invitational at Monache High School on Dec. 7. In January, the Bears will host a dual match with Golden Valley and will compete at various tournaments throughout the Valley and California. The local tournaments the girls will compete in will take place at Sanger High (Sanger Girls Wrestling Championships) on Jan. 11 and at Golden West (Central Valley Girls Invitational) on Jan. 24.
Other tournaments Selma will compete at include the True Wrestler Napa Valley Invitational in Napa (Jan. 10-11), the Lady Mid-Cal’s at Gilroy High School (Jan. 17-18), and the Montclair Invitational in Southern California (Feb. 1). The Bears will host their dual meet with Golden Valley on Jan. 8.