Nayeli Pelayo joined a short list last winter when she became just the fourth female wrestler from Central Valley High School to advance to the CIF Girls State Wrestling Championships.
"I totally expect it to happen," Hawks head coach Rob Beckhart said when asked if Pelayo would make it to State this season and her senior year. "I'd be very surprised if she didn't qualify both years. She's incredibly strong. She's very athletic. She's very quick. She listens well."
A newcomer to the sport, Pelayo compiled a 25-11 overall record while competing in the 189-pound division as a sophomore.
"I was lucky she chose to do wrestling," Beckhart said. "She's naturally athletic. She's pretty good at all sports."
Nayeli earned all-Western Athletic Conference honors for her outstanding play in softball her sophomore and freshman years.
The standout catcher ranked second in the WAC in doubles (6), fourth in homers (1), sixth in batting average (.500) and slugging percentage (.781), ninth in on-base percentage (.515), 10th in RBIs (7) and 12th in runs (6) this past spring.
Pelayo also earned an invitation to the Paul Leonardo Memorial Western Athletic Conference vs. Central California Conference All-Star Softball Game for the second year in a row.
Nayeli compiled an 0-2 record at State this past season.
She placed third at the Sac-Joaquin Section & Northern Section Masters Wrestling Tournament and fifth at the Southern Regional Qualifier.
She finished first twice, second once and fourth once at tournaments during the regular season.
Pelayo won titles at Pitman's Rumble in the Jungle and Central Valley's Novice Tournament.
"It was a learning experience," Beckhart said.
Pelayo will compete in tournaments at Bear Creek, Pacheco, Vintage and Enochs this year.
The WAC finals will be staged on Jan. 27 in Livingston, followed by Regionals, Masters and State.
"Nayeli has more confidence this year," Beckhart said. "She expects to win. But she doesn't like to talk about herself. She's very humble."
Pelayo, junior Julia Avila (116 pounds), sophomores Emily Mendoza (116s) and Brianna Quiroz (150s), and freshman Anahi Arellano (160s) make up Central Valley's five-person girls wrestling team.
"They're focusing on trying to get better," Beckhart said. "They work just as hard as the boys."
It took Nayeli just one season to enter Central Valley's record books.
Pelayo followed in the footsteps of former Hawk grapplers Rose Moore, Malynda Lomeli and Lexy Cordova, all of whom qualified for State.
Nayeli will accomplish a first in program history this winter if she makes a return trip to Visalia.
"We expect her (Pelayo) to go back to State," Beckhart said. "Hopefully, she can place. We have to make sure we keep her healthy and in the right state of mind. And everything will fall into place."
Pelayo will have numerous options when it comes time to finalize her future plans.
"If she wants to wrestle in college, she'll have that opportunity," Beckhart said. "She's so talented in other sports. It will be up to her to decide what she wants to do."