Brianna Espinoza and Giana Breshears joined rare company while representing Central Valley High School’s girls wrestling team at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships this past week.
Espinoza and Breshears became just the seventh and eighth female grapplers in program history to qualify for the CIF State Meet.
“It makes me realize how hard it is to get to state,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza and Breshears followed in the footsteps of Carla Martinez (class of 2020), Brianna Quiroz (class of 2019), Nayeli Pelayo (class of 2018), Rose Moore (class of 2012), Lexy Cordova (class of 2014) and Malynda Lomeli (class of 2013).
“This is the end goal,” Hawks’ head coach Brandy Cordova said. “This is where we want all 14 girls in our lineup to go.”
Espinoza and Breshears secured individual berths after finishing in the top four at Masters, staged Feb. 17-18 at Stockton Arena.
They thrived under pressure.
“They had that experience already,” Cordova said. “We prepared the girls by taking them to Reno in December. You wrestle in an arena. You’re center stage and everyone is watching you. If you’ve never been to an arena, it’s big. There are oohs and aahs.”
Espinoza, a sophomore, won three of four matches en route to a second-place finish at 235 pounds.
She beat Cordova’s Merideth Macey (pin, 0:45), Center’s Elizabeth Post (pin, 0:59) and Woodland’s Arleen Perez (pin, 0:56).
Espinoza lost in the finals to Rocklin’s Gemma Templeman (pin, 1:53).
“We knew she’d get to state if she continued wrestling as well as she was,” Cordova said.
“It’s the best I’ve performed,” Espinoza added. “I wrestled hard.”
Espinoza punched her ticket to state during the first day of Masters.
She compiled an 0-2 record at Masters as a freshman.
“She’s a lot more confident,” Cordova said. “You can tell she’s sure of herself on the mat.”
“Last year, everything was new to me,” Espinoza stated. “I was more timid. This year, I got way better. I learned more moves and technique. I’ve wrestled smarter. I have more confidence.”
Breshears, a freshman, won four of six matches while placing fourth at 143 pounds.
“Giana’s the first freshman from Central Valley to make it to a state championship in any sport,” Cordova said.
“That’s crazy,” Breshears said. “It’s unbelievable. I way exceeded my expectations. I never thought I’d qualify for state as a freshman. I listened and followed my coaches’ instructions. My mom took me to everything. That’s how I became a state-qualifier.”
Breshears beat Lincoln’s Riley Bancroft (pin, 3:54), Atwater’s Andrea Hernandez (pin, 2:06), West’s Gurneet Sanghera (decision, 9-5) and Franklin’s Dafne Guadarrama (injury default).
Breshears lost twice to Ponderosa’s Ariel Preciado.
Preciado edged Breshears by one point (decision, 9-8) during the third-place match.
Preciado pinned Breshears (2:40) in the quarterfinals.
Breshears earned a state berth during the second day of Masters.
“She had a little tougher road because she lost her second match,” Cordova said. “We knew she would work her way back into the tournament. You could see the drive she had to be successful in each match.”
“I’m really proud of how I wrestled,” Breshears said. “There was a lot of pressure. I handled it well.”
Central Valley teammates Alicia Espinoza, Gabriella Ramirez, Jayden Corona and Taylor McGuire, and Ceres High’s Madeline Schultz and Elizabeth Boyd also competed at Masters.
“I’m happy with the performances of all of the girls,” Cordova said.
Schultz and Boyd both had respectable performances while making their first-ever appearances at the state-qualifying tournament.
Schultz, a sophomore, compiled a 1-2 record at 170 pounds.
She beat Rocklin’s Elisna Boyd (pin, 2:46).
Schultz lost to Nevada Union’s Liddy Elliott (decision, 9-5) and West’s Perla Camacho Meza (injury default).
Boyd, a freshman, compiled a 1-2 record at 189 pounds.
She beat Valley’s Michelle Martin (pin, 5:06).
Boyd lost to Bella Vista’s Emma Ford (decision, 6-0) and Franklin’s Alejandra Ochoa (pin, 0:25).
Alicia Espinoza, a freshman, posted a 1-2 record at 170 pounds.
She beat Tokay’s Irma Gonzalez (pin, 2:17).
Espinoza lost to Rio Vista’s Chloe Goddard (pin 3:28) and Natomas’ Czharria Sanders (pin, 1:54).
Ramirez, a senior, posted an 0-2 record at 160 pounds.
She lost to Foothill’s Marylu Franklin (pin, 4:00) and Tokay’s Maliah Gomez (pin, 3:18).
Corona, a sophomore, posted an 0-2 record at 111 pounds.
She lost to Davis’ Andrea Gonzalez (pin, 1:17) and Lincoln’s Emily Marlowe (pin, 2:01).
McGuire, a freshman, posted an 0-2 record at 137 pounds.
She lost to Bella Vista’s Gianna DiBenedetto (pin, 0:54) and Elk Grove’s Andrea Espinosa De La Fuente (pin, 1:23).
The Hawks earned a team score of 45 while tying for ninth at Masters with Bella Vista and Franklin.
Ceres High (seven points) placed 61st.
“I didn’t pay too close attention to the team score,” Cordova said. “We had six girls. To tie for ninth is amazing.”
The CIF State Meet will be staged Feb. 23-25 at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield.
“It would be nice to see them (Espinoza and Breshears) place,” Cordova said.