Six minutes. That’s how close La Joya Juarez-Lincoln wrestler Leslie Oliva came to taking the gold at the state tournament Saturday. After taking her first match in the University Interscholastic League’s (UIL’s) Wrestling State Tournament in Garland, Texas with a pin, Oliva (45-3) won her second and third round matches by one-point decisions to qualify for the championship match in the 95 lb. weight class. Oliva gave it all she had against Morgan Zogg (41-3) of Klein in that match, but Zogg eluded her moves while scoring two points of her own to take the championship match, winning the gold medal, 2-0.
In only her second year of competitive wrestling, the Lady Huskies’ sophomore had already exceeded all expectations even before she stepped onto the mat for her first match at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. She did so by earning the district and regional championships in this her first year of competing at those two tournaments.
“I never thought I could make it that far,” said Oliva. “But I worked hard because I really wanted the gold medal. I did wrestle last year, but I didn’t get to compete at the district meet so this is my first full year of wrestling.”
One person that is not surprised is Lady Huskies’ head wrestling coach Humberto Vela.
“For me as her coach Leslie is the perfect athlete,” explained Vela. “You tell her what to do and she does it. She told me that she wanted to wrestle at the 95 lb. class and she’s worked hard to keep her weight down. Throughout the season she would keep track of any opponents that qualified for the state meet last year and she would keep track of those she beat as a way of gauging her progress.”
Fellow Lady Huskies’ wrestler Danae Sanchez also medaled at the state meet last week. After earning the silver medal in the 148 lb. weight class last year, Sanchez fell short of achieving her year-long goal of earning a gold medal in her senior year. Even so, Sanchez did earn the bronze medal after winning her first two matches with falls. She then lost her third match in a major decision, 13-4, and won her final match with a fall at the 0:58 mark to capture third place in the state.
“This was my fourth trip to the state meet,” explained Sanchez. “I was an alternate my freshman year. My sophomore year, I won my first match but lost the next two. Last year I came back strong but I did lose the state championship by one point. This year I lost my semi-final match to the eventual state champion before I came back and won my final match for third place.”
With a 42-0 record going into the state tournament, Sanchez found it hard to deal with the taste of defeat for the first time all year.
“Losing my semi-final match was really hard for me at first because I was undefeated this year,” said Sanchez. “It had been a long time since I had felt what it was like to lose a match. I didn’t want to wrestle again, but Coach Vela told me to get in there and prove that I had what it took to win so that’s what I did. I pinned my opponent 58 seconds into the third place match.”
As the only Big 6 boys’ wrestler to finish among the top six in his respective weight class at last week’s state meet, Sharyland’s Shane Foley (152 lbs.) not only became the only local boy wrestler to win a medal but he also became the first wrestler ever from Sharyland High School to earn the All-State title.
“I was 35-1 going into the state meet,” explained Foley. “I lost my first match by one point, so that was disheartening. I didn’t want to just give up there because I wanted to make it to the second day. I won my next match 9-4, which got me super excited because I knew I would be wrestling on day two. I won my next three matches, which put me into the match I needed to win to qualify for the third place match. However, that was against Malik Pickett from Katy Seven Lakes who had beaten me twice before.”
“I made up my mind that I was going to win that match because I saw the Progress Times photographer there and that made me realize that everybody in the Valley was rooting for me,” added Foley. “I hadn’t even thought of that before until he came up to me and told me that he was there to photograph me. I beat Pickett 5-4 and it was the most exciting, awesome thing in the world to beat the guy that had beaten me twice before and to qualify for the third place match.”
In total, six Big 6 schools’ wrestlers earned All-State honors last week. Along with Oliva’s second place finish, Sanchez’s third place finish and Foley’s fourth place finish, La Joya’s Maria Rios (138 lbs.) finished in sixth place in the 5A tournament. Veterans Memorial’s Jackie Gonzalez (165 lbs.) and Klarissa Blanco (185 lbs.) finished fourth and sixth respectively in their weight classes to earn All-State honors in the 4A tournament.