By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
When it comes to girls high school wrestling, no area in California features more top competitors than the San Gabriel Valley. It was that way last year, and it’s been the case so far this season, with most of the favorites to win at the first CIF State championship in February coming from the Valley. (To continue click thread).
Most will be on display this weekend when Baldwin Park hosts a girls tournament on Saturday. The event begins at 9:30 a.m., with the final rounds scheduled between 1-3 p.m.
“I think (the Valley’s success) is because Northview, West Covina and Baldwin Park have a tradition of high-quality wrestling programs,” Baldwin Park girls coach Michael Duran said. “Our coaches have chosen to support girls wrestling. I look at (the San Gabriel Valley) as a hot-bed of future wrestling, one that can lead the girls to college or international (competition).”
The successes, which in the past have included Northview’s Tatiana Padilla, who is expected to make the U.S. national team for next summer’s Olympics, have continued in recent years, with the efforts of West Covina’s Samantha Ortiz (114 pounds) and Alyssa Luna (118) and Northview’s Brazel Marquez (122).
All three are defending state champions and were ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes to begin the season. They will compete at Baldwin Park on Saturday and will be joined by the Braves’ Lilian Salinas, a national team member who competes at 103, and Daisy Mendez (122), who finished sixth at CIF-SS regionals last season.
The one-day event will feature 150-200 competitors, most who are expected to compete at next month’s state meet.
“It’s exciting to be on the forefront of girls wrestling,” Duran said. “It’s a growing sport, and to host an event like this is exciting.
“This is a big tournament, because it’s the last preview for the (Southern Section) girls to see where they are. It gives them a chance to match up and scope the competition, who they might have to face (at the state meet).”
Arroyo High School’s Christian Bettancourt began the season as one of the top returning wrestlers in the state.
This past Saturday, the senior showed how good he can be, winning the 112-pound division at the Five Counties Invitational, considered the top tournament in the state.
Bettancourt, a returning state qualifier, went 4-0, with one win by fall and three decisions, including a 4-2 victory over Corona Centenntial’s Christian Pagdillao in the final.
The senior was the only area competitor to score an individual title, although four other Valley entrants scored top 8 medals.
They included Rosemead’s Matt Fregoso, who was fifth at 130, and the Northview foursome of Chris Auxier (215), Eric Ochoa (112), Bryan Salinas (140) and Steven Lopez (160). Salinas placed fourth, with Lopez and Ochoa taking eighth in their respective classes.
Auxier had the second-best performance by an area competitor, taking second at 215 after losing 12-5 to Santa Ana Calvary Chapel’s Tank Knowles.