San Francisco International senior Marlyn Martinez had high hopes for the state wrestling championship last Friday.
“I thought I was more prepared,” Martinez said after losing her first match in the last wrestling event of her high school career. She competed in two matches on the first day of the tournament, but was not able to qualify for the second day.
More than 300 girls from all eight California Interscholastic Federation sections took part in the two-day girls’ CIF wrestling competition at Lemoore High in Lemoore, Calif.
The high school gymnasium was packed with parents, family, friends, coaches and wrestlers competing on four different mats. The scene on the sidelines was exciting, and adrenaline ran high before the matches began. Coaches instructed and teammates encouraged. Family members and friends supported their loved ones.
It was Martinez’s second time at the state championship. She was the first athlete at San Francisco International to qualify for a state event — an honor for a high school that opened in 2009.
To stay focused as she waited patiently for her second match, she listened to music through her headphones with her sweatshirt hood pulled over her head.
But that match turned out to be even more challenging than the first, and Martinez lost in triple overtime against Jazmine Chavarria from West Covina High School.
Martinez gave up crucial points when she thought Chavarria stepped out of bounds. The SF International senior went back to reset, but the referee never called the wrestlers out of bounds, and Chavarria knocked her down, gaining a lead. In the last 10 seconds Martinez managed an escape, which tied the match and led to triple overtime. But she failed to score and was eliminated from the tournament.
“I feel a little bit angry because I gave everything on the mat,” Martinez said afterward.
Martinez wasn’t the only Mission District competitor at the tournament: Mission resident Alondra Barajas, a senior at Lowell High School, also took part in the competition.
Barajas has been wrestling since her sophomore year. For the past three seasons she has qualified for the state championships every year. During her first state appearance, in 2011, she couldn’t keep up with the competition. At her second state appearance she injured her back, which kept her from advancing in the competition.
“This year I’m trying to do good for all the years I didn’t do so good,” she said.
Last Friday, Barajas had a buy in her first round of the tournament, was pinned in her second match and lost her third match.
Her parents weren’t always supportive of their daughter’s wrestling. Her mother, Susana Ramirez, who attended the tournament, said, “At first, it was difficult and odd for my girl to wrestle; then I found out she was really good.” Ramirez added, “It helps her physically and mentally with grades.”
Ramirez thinks that more parents should be supportive of their kids in sports and encourage them to join wrestling.
“There are parents who never go. I say that the parents should take them and attend,” Ramirez said, referring to the competitions. “For example, when they play soccer, it’s full of white people — the Latino parents don’t go.”
The executive director of CIF, Roger Blake, who attends all the state championships, said that “When people [attend] it breaks the stereotypes that girls shouldn’t be wrestling.”
“There is a culture in wrestling,” Blake said. “They are competitors on the mat and when it’s over they shake hands, but they walk away with joy in the competition.”
After her last match, Martinez said, “I know that in my part I gave everything. These things happen. I have to live with it.”