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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on February 19th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 50

Taking it to the mat

Pioneer Valley wrestlers are set to take on the best of the best at CIF State meet

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

Wrestling—a complicated dance of body parts, agility, and power—has been a male-dominated sport since the Ancient Greeks first started grappling thousands of years ago.

But the face of wrestling is slowly gaining more feminine qualities as more girls are bucking stereotypes and hitting the mat. The National Federation of State High School Associations recently reported wrestling is now the fastest-growing sport for high school girls. Since 1994, the number of girls who wrestle in high school has grown from 804 to more than 7,000.

What’s more, these trailblazing females have had success on the mat and are showing the world what they can do in a “man’s sport.”


Headlock
The Pioneer Valley girls’ wrestling team works out every day for three hours—running, lifting weights, and wrestling—practicing different moves and techniques that will help them in competition.
PHOTOS BY KRISTINA SEWELL
Take, for instance, the four female wrestlers at Pioneer Valley High School. These girls, ranging in size from petite to powerfully built, have helped establish a tradition of wrestling excellence at a school gaining notoriety for its male and female wrestling programs. Soon, the lady grapplers will face-off against the best of the best at the CIF California State meet.

Beatriz Bautista, Danielle Sigala, Courtney Tompkins, and Makayla Bourbon have worked hard this season to pave their way to the toughest tournament in the Golden State.

Each of the girls had an impressive wrestling year: Tompkins, a junior who wrestles for the 167-pound weight class, went 34-6 in her matches this season. Bourbon, a junior in the 118-pound weight class, went 30-14. Seniors Sigala (108 pound) went 22-8, while Bautista (114 pound) came out 26-13. The team finished first in the league, and was followed closely by the lady wrestlers at Righetti.

The fantastic four took third at the CIF playoffs in Rancho Verde on Feb. 7. Coming out on top against 115 high schools and 500 female wrestlers, the girls have secured a berth to the state meet at Lemoore High School on Feb. 21.

David Sigala, a volunteer coach and Danielle’s father, said it was even harder this year for the girls to gain a spot at the state meet.

“Last year, there were 12 spots available and this year there was only eight,” he said. “Only 32 girls will make it to the California state tourney.”

This accomplishment will be added to the list of previous accolades achieved by these girls who have taken second place at CIF twice before.


Girl power
Success is nothing new to these girls who have won second place in CIF twice and took first in league this year; the girls are preparing for the toughest meet in California—the state meet set to begin Feb.21.
PHOTOS BY KRISTINA SEWELL
For head wrestling coach Kevin Ilac, who has been working with the female wrestlers for four years, the girls’ success can be attributed to their unyielding commitment to the team and their desire to improve.

“They’re talented, super athletic, and they’ve earned everything they’ve gotten,” Ilac said.

Amanda Woods, assistant wrestling coach and former wrestler at PVHS, has been working with the team for two years.

“They listen to directions and work diligently to perfect their skills,” Woods said. “They’re optimistic and never get sad when they’re beaten—their attitude makes them wonderful girls to coach.”

She said each of the girls brings something unique to the team. Tompkins is taller than most and powerfully built; she uses her height and long limbs to her advantage.

“She works extremely hard and I’d say that is her biggest strength,” Woods said.

Bourbon and Bautista work together a lot in practice and push each other to be better. The coach added these girls are both determined and hard working. Of Sigala, Woods said the wrestler is focused and always up for a challenge.

“She knows what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it,” Woods said. “She is determined and good at encouraging others to do their best.”

Woods, who wrestled at PVHS for four years, enjoyed her own measure of success, taking third at CIF three years in a row before taking fourth at state and seventh at nationals during her senior year.

Competing in one of the world’s oldest sports like wrestling, Woods said, requires strength, determination, and self-discipline. With a history of success and numerous accomplishments under their belts, the female wrestlers of Pioneer Valley have no shortage of talent and tenacity to succeed. Heading to CIF, the fantastic four have some clear-cut goals for the upcoming competition.

“I’ll be putting to the test everything I’ve learned in the last three years,” Bourbon said, adding that qualifying was particularly exciting this season because she defeated one of her biggest competitors for the spot.

“She had beaten me five times before and always by [a couple of] points,” she said. “I finally beat her in overtime at the qualifying match and kicked her out.”

Making it to CIF was even more special for Bourbon, who recently lost her grandfather, an eight-time arm wrestling world champion. The junior roller said he told her to “kick butt” at the state meet and that he would always be proud of her.

Tompkins, an All-American who took fourth at nationals last season, wants to continue perfecting her technique: “Every person you wrestle is different. You have to be really focused and give it your all,” she said.
Sigala and Bautista, in their final dance with high school wrestling, have a simple goal for the tournament: To do their best.

“I want to wrestle tough, use everything I’ve learned, and take it one round at a time,” Bautista said.

Sigala echoed her strategy, adding, “I’m going to wrestle the best I can. I want to come out with no regrets.”

While wrestling for girls is picking up in terms of popularity, the sport is still fighting for sanction in America and it remains a male-dominated sport—something that doesn’t go unnoticed by Tompkins, Bautista, Bourbon, and Sigala.

“Girls aren’t given enough credit and some guys don’t think it’s a true sport and that anyone can do it,” Sigala and Bautista said. “It’s not that easy.”

The PVHS girls wrestling team understands the elements needed for success and have endured the commitment of being a wrestler. The girls train for three hours every day; practice starts with a two-mile run, followed by weight lifting, and then two hours of wrestling.

“We have Saturday practices. We were here every day over Christmas break, and we were here Thanksgiving and New Year’s,” Sigala said.

In the future, the girls said they would like to see girls wrestling become more official by forming leagues; Tompkins said she would like to see more colleges offer girls’ wrestling programs. Only 22 colleges currently offer such programs.

The fantastic four will continue to practice and train for the state competition. If all goes well and the girls place in the top eight at the tournament, they have a shot at nationals.

“I expected these girls to do the best they could and enjoy the sport,” coach Woods said. “These girls are proving that even though we aren’t as strong as boys, we can still wrestle.”

Staff Writer Kristina Sewell believes there’s more to strength than just big muscles. Share your thoughts with her at ksewell@santamariasun.com.