Selma High seniors Alleida Martínez and Gracie Figueroa are in a class by themselves: Four straight state wrestling titles while never losing a match.
They also helped their school to a record, third consecutive state title. Martínez and Figueroa doubled the number of girl wrestlers with four straight state titles. The pair was showcased at the CIF state title meet Saturday (Feb. 24) night at the Visalia Convention Center.
Junior teammate Jerzie Estrada won the 150-pound weight class, her second state title. Selma racked up 142 points for the team title, ahead of runner-up Northview (85 points).
In the stands, Frances Santillán, Figueroa’s mother, held her rosary in her hands, a custom she’s followed throughout her daughter’s high school career. She was joined by about 60 Selma supporters, including former boys’ and girls’ wrestling coaches.
“We’ve just been working so hard for it,” said Martínez after her win. “I’m just going to miss it, especially wrestling with everybody coming here.”
It was a wonderful four years I had with them. I was so blessed having their talents in the beginning.
Selma girl’s wrestling coach Andy Múñoz
Martínez, who defeated Mt. Whitney High (Visalia) junior Ashley Venegas for the 111-pound title, ended her high school career with nearly 100 wins, much less than Figueroa’s nearly 200 wins because of time off in past seasons nursing injuries. Martínez finished the season at 24-0.
Martínez also won last season’s 111-weight bracket; and the 101-weight class in 2016 and 2015.
Figueroa completed her four seasons at 193-0 and 33-0 this season.
“I know it’s going to be a sad moment when I leave because I won’t be a Bear anymore,” Figueroa said after winning her 121-pound title over Caitlin Cárdenas of Corona.
“I’m pretty happy to be moving on to the next level. I worked hard for it, and I’m just glad I got the recognition for it.”
Figueroa also won the 126-pound weight last season; the 116-weight bracket in 2016; and the 111-weight class in 2015.
Valencia High’s Gabrielle García (a 2016 graduate) and West Covina-Poway’s Alyssa LaFrancis (2015 graduate) also won four consecutive wrestling titles, but they did not go undefeated in their high school careers.
The state finals were a tough competition, but Martínez and Figueroa, both bound for the Menlo College Oaks women’s wrestling team this fall, were unchallenged at the state high school level after having competed on the world’s stage in such places like Boznia Herzegovina and Canada. Both competitors are top-ranked wrestlers in the nation in their respective weight classes, and have represented the U.S. and medaled in world junior competitions.
“I want to thank Selma for coming out and supporting our girls. It makes very happy, and she’s (Figueroa) is ready to start her new chapter. She’s ready to climb that mountain,” said Santillán, still grasping the rosary she’s held all four years of Figueroa’s time on the mat.
Santillán is a maintenance worker at Fresno City College. She often cleaned houses to help pay for Figueroa’s wrestling expenses.
Her son, Richard Figueroa, a Selma High freshman, earned the No. 1 seed in the state boys’ competition next weekend in Bakersfield.
“It was a wonderful four years I had with them. I was so blessed having their talents in the beginning. They’re going to be irreplaceable, so we’re just going to continue to forge every season with a program we’ve developed,” said Selma coach Andy Muñoz.
Muñoz said Selma’s girls program is developed. It was before 2010 that the program produced its first female wrestler with Biridiana Mendoza, who eventually earned a Menlo College scholarship, but didn’t finish her education. Two seasons ago, the program attracted more than 22 athletes to the tryouts.
The program also produced the likes of Amber Quintana, a 2014 Selma graduate, who also won the Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA) title in the 148-pound division in 2015 while at Southwestern Oregon Community College.
Mendoza, Quintana, Martínez and Figueroa often wrestled against boys in their elementary school days.
While at Menlo College, Figueroa and Martínez hope to earn a NCWWA national title. Figueroa also wants to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Menlo College coaches Joey Bereng and assistant Marcus Randolph were at the finals and praised Selma’s results.
“I think the main thing we’ll be teaching is transition for any high school athlete to the collegiate level. There’s a lot to learn in terms of outside things that are going to occur. You’re going away from your family, you got all this support, and you go from that situation to a situation when you’re independent now,” said Bereng.
“I thought it was great watching Alleida dominate, and Gracie has that reputation ahead of her. Going into next year, we’re excited. It puts the rest of the country on notice about what we’re going to do,” added Randolph.
Estrada takes on leadership role next season
Jerzie Estrada, a junior, shut out Gregori High (Modesto) junior Liliana Vergara to win the 150-pound title.
Estrada lived with a host family the first year with Selma in 2016, when she won the 131-pound title, but last year opted to return to Colorado and won the state’s first girls competition.
“I’m excited (to lead). I’ll tell them (the team) that they have try all season and not give up,” said Estrada, 17.
She plans on remaining with Selma because of the tougher competition.
“I think she’s going to be a great leader, and pull the girls together next year,” said Figueroa.
Estrada is thinking of attending Cambellsville University in Kentucky. The Cambellsville Tigers are currently No. 1 in the national women’s wrestling rankings.