With nineteen qualifiers and six alternates between them, the seven Mission, Sharyland and La Joya high schools will be very well represented at the University Interscholastic League’s State Wrestling Tournament in Garland this weekend.
Each school will have at least one wrestler competing among the state’s elite and one school may have as many as seven.
With four qualifiers and three alternates Juarez-Lincoln High School leads the pack among Big 7 schools with the most wrestlers making the trip to Garland. Veterans Memorial will have four qualifiers and one alternate while Palmview High (three qualifiers and two alternates), Sharyland High (four qualifiers), La Joya High (two qualifiers), Mission High (one qualifier) and Pioneer High (one qualifier) will all have shots at bringing home at least one of the highly coveted state medals.
Of the 25 Mission-La Joya area wrestlers taking to the mats at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland today and tomorrow, only one is a regional champion – the Lady Patriots’ Klarissa Blanco.
Klarissa, a junior who earned that distinction by claiming her second regional title in three years, is making her third trip to the state tournament.
“I really wanted the regional title this year,” Blanco said. “Now that I’m going to state for the third year in a row, I really want to be No. 1.”
As a freshman, and in her first year of competitive wrestling, Blanco took District 16-4A and Region IV by surprise, claiming both championships in the 185 lb. weight class. As a sophomore she didn’t fare quite as well at district and regionals when she took second at both, but she improved on her performance at state by placing sixth.
What’s her secret to success?
Blanco said, “For being 185 lbs. I’m quicker than the other girls. I think I’m more athletic too. That’s why I was able to pin most of my opponents at regionals in seconds.”
Going into the state tournament with 18 wins, all by pins, and no losses, Blanco is just five wins away from a state championship. While the competition will be stiff ,Veterans Memorial wrestling coach Ben Yzaguirre believes Blanco has what it takes to emerge from this weekend’s tourney as the undefeated state champion.
“From the very beginning, Klarissa has been a very aggressive wrestler,” explained Yzaguirre. “This year, however, her confidence level has skyrocketed. She believes that when she gets on the mat nobody can beat her.”
“When I saw how confident she was at the beginning of the season, I told her that the only thing she needed to do was to stay healthy,” added Yzaguirre. “I told her that if everything fell into place, she should have a nice ride into state and then at state all she’d need to do is to let whatever happened happen.”
Other Veterans Memorial wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament are Armando Bustillos (113 lbs.), Karime Flores (128 lbs.), Leslie Alaniz (148 lbs.) and as an alternate Brandi Alaniz (138 lbs.).
Also competing at the 5A level will be Sharyland’s Joseth Suarez (126 lbs.), Ruy Troche (145 lbs.), Dominique Lopez (95 lbs.), Areanna Saldana (102 lbs.) and Pioneer’s Mark Faucette (170 lbs.).
Local wrestlers competing at the 6A level will be Juarez-Lincoln’s Rene Beas (182 lbs.), Edgar Delgado (220 lbs.), Leslie Oliva (95 lbs.), Angelica Hernandez (128 lbs.), alternate Valentin Cervantes (113 lbs.), alternate Nancy Becerra (119 lbs.), alternate Yaritza Colunga (148 lbs.), Palmview’s Alyssa Salinas (102 lbs.), Steffany Rosas (185 lbs.), Keyla Gutierrez (215 lbs.), alternate Raymond Sarmiento (106 lbs.), alternate Jeremiah Esquivel (120 lbs.), La Joya’s James Muzquiz (120 lbs.), Daisy Ramirez (165 lbs.) and Mission’s Sally Ochoa (165 lbs.).