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Espinoza becomes just the second female wrestler from CV to place at state
Junior Brianna Espinoza made program history
Junior Brianna Espinoza made program history by becoming just the second female wrestler from Central Valley High School to medal at the CIF State Championships. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Junior Brianna Espinoza joined rare company this past week by becoming just the second female wrestler from Central Valley High School to medal at the CIF State Championships.

“Pretty cool,” said Espinoza, who matched former Hawk grappler Nayeli Pelayo’s 2018 accomplishment. 

“It’s an elite group,” said Central Valley head coach Brandy Cordova. “It’s something all the girls are striving for. They know it takes a lot of work and dedication.”

Espinoza placed sixth overall in the 235-pound weight class at the state meet this past week at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield.

“When I was on the podium, I felt really proud of myself and thankful for all who have helped me,” she said. “To make it to state, let alone placing up there, it took some work. So thank you to all who helped me. I did better than I did at last year’s tournament, so it’s a good feeling.”

“I was taking so many pictures,” said younger sister/Central Valley sophomore wrestler Alicia Espinoza, who won one of three matches at 170 pounds while making her first-ever appearance at state. “I felt like a mom. I’m so proud of her. She definitely deserves this. She’s improved every year. She’s the humblest wrestler and person I know. She works really hard at so many things.” 

Winless at state as a sophomore, sixth-seeded Brianna Espinoza compiled a 3-3 record this season.

“I think it can be considered by best performance because it led me to place,” Espinoza said. “What I did differently was not think of all my matches; instead I took each match at a time to calm my nerves. State is terrifying and filled with really good wrestlers.”

“This is one of her better performances,” said Cordova. “She had a confidence about her this weekend. She knew she belonged there.”

Espinoza bested St. Francis’ Sa’o Loia by second-round pin (2:29) in the Round of 32 and Millikan’s Helen Martinez by second-round pin (3:04) in the Round of 16 on Thursday.

She was assured a state medal after topping third-seeded Julia Gomez of East Nicolaus by first-round pin (0:56) in the quarterfinals on Friday.

“She was typical Bri,” Cordova said. “She came off the mat smiling. We were all excited for her.”

Espinoza lost to Ridgeview’s Fernanda Canedo (pin, 2:34), Lakewood’s Ashley Wafer (pin, 1:38) and Greenfield’s Estrella Vasquez-Gutierrez (medical forfeit) on Saturday.

Espinoza injury defaulted to sixth place after pulling a ligament in her foot versus Wafer in the consolation semifinals.

Canedo, Wafer and Gomez placed second, fourth and seventh, respectively.

Espinoza posted a 35-9 overall record this season.

She qualified for state for the second year in a row.

She took second at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament.

She placed first at South Regionals for the second straight year.

She claimed her third consecutive Central California Conference championship.

“We took the girls to bigger tournament this year,” Cordova said. “Seeing all that tough competition helped Bri prepare for what she needed to do at the state level. She has become a very technical wrestler. She puts into action the moves she’s been working on in the room. She doesn’t rely on just one move or takedown. If one thing isn’t working, she moves on to the next technical moves she’s been taught.”

“Our coaches work hard to get us far,” Espinoza said. “I’m thankful for each and every one of them. They all each helped achieve the goal of placing and becoming a better wrestler than I was before. Also, credit to my team for the support and my drilling partners, boys and girls. Also credit to my mom, for she has been my biggest supporter, along with my sisters. She has helped me grow strong-minded and humble. She’s believed in me in all of my sports and activities and has been here for my growing journey.”

“We knew her freshman year she was going to be a good wrestler,” Cordova said. “She was winning matches but not like sophomore and junior year. She wasn’t aggressive. She flipped that switch.”

Espinoza will add to her impressive resume next season.

“My expectations for myself are to keep growing as a wrestler, and to hopefully, be able to place (at state) once again,” she said. 

Espinoza remained humble while talking about her place in Central Valley’s wrestling history. Her list of accomplishments rank her ahead of Pelayo, Giana Breshears, Brianna Quiroz, Malynda Lomeli, Rose Moore, Alicia Espinoza, Lexy (Cordova) Zuniga and Carla Martinez.

“We have amazing female wresters now and in the past,” Brianna Espinoza said. “I can’t be considered the all-time greatest female wrestler, but I can be put as one of the greatest female wrestlers at CV.” 

Brianna Espinoza with sister Alicia
Brianna Espinoza, pictured with younger sister Alicia, brought home a sixth-place medal from the CIF State Meet. - photo by Contributed to the Courier