With only the best of the best from across the Lone Star State competing in the UIL State Wrestling Championship Tournament, the competition was fierce as 25 local high school wrestlers vied for a state medal.
However, of the 19 qualifiers and six alternates from La Joya, Mission and Sharyland ISD, Juarez-Lincoln’s Leslie Oliva and La Joya’s Daisy Ramirez were the only two who won one of the highly coveted state medals.
In the last of couple years, the La Joya Juarez-Lincoln High School boys and girls wrestling teams have steadily been top competitors in high school wrestling.
This year alone, the Juarez-Lincoln wrestling teams have claimed top honors at major matches around the state.
One of those contests, the Centex Tournament, which is the second largest wrestling competition in Texas, (after the UIL state competition) is where Juarez-Lincoln earned first place in the competition. The championship victory became a first not only in the school’s history, but also a first in Rio Grande Valley history – no other Valley school has ever attained such a feat in Centex Tournament’s entire existence.
Locally, the Husky Boys Wrestling team ranked first out of 15 teams by clinching the District 6A Championship title for the third year in a row.
“Wrestling at Juarez-Lincoln has been consistently successful for both the boys and girls teams. They’ve truly put Juarez-Lincoln High School on the map,” stated Juarez-Lincoln HS Athletic Coordinator Tomas Garcia.
As a whole, La Joya ISD sent 33 wrestlers from all three high schools to compete at the regional contest in early February. From the group, seven Juarez-Lincoln HS wrestlers (3 boys, and 4 girls) advanced to compete against the best wrestlers in Texas.
In addition to Oliva’s second place finish at state, fellow Juarez-Lincoln wrestlers Edgar Delgado and Rene Beas placed 12th and 19th, respectively, at the state contest.
As the defending state silver medalist in the 95 lb. weight class, Oliva had her sights set on the gold medal this year. Having qualified for the state tournament by placing second at the Region IV championships, Oliva took to the mat for her first match in Garland last Friday having emerged victorious from 40 of her 43 previous matches this year.
While earning back-to-back state silver medals is an accomplishment few wrestlers have ever achieved, Oliva was disappointed she didn’t win the gold, but she said, “at the same time…I feel proud because not everybody can say that they’ve won two state silver medals.”
Before advancing to the championship match for the second year in a row, Oliva had to win her first three matches at the state tournament. She pinned her first opponent and defeated her second and third opponents by decisions.
“I pinned my first opponent in the second period,” Oliva said. “My second match was a hard one, but I won it by a decision of 4-3. In my semi-final match I won 3-1.”
By winning all three of her preliminary matches Friday, Oliva earned the right to wrestle again Saturday. That was when she went up against her championship match opponent, Asia Ray from Arlington, who stepped onto the mat with a 42-0 record.
“I had never wrestled her before so I didn’t know her moves or how strong of a wrestler she was,” explained Oliva. “She scored her first two points when she took me down and I locked hands. She then scored two more on another take down and then she scored some stalling points. I scored my points on a reversal and an escape.”
The final score of that championship match was 6-3 in favor of Ray.
As a junior this year, Oliva will still have one more chance to compete for another state medal.
Having placed fifth in the 165 lb. weight class La Joya High senior Daisy Ramirez was the only other Big 7 school wrestler to earn a state medal. Ramirez pinned her first opponent at state at the 2:20 mark and her second opponent at the 3:14 mark before losing to the eventual state champion Kijhla Evans (55-1) of Klein in the semi-final round. Ramirez then faced off against the other semi-finals runner-up for fifth place, which she won with a pin at the 2:19 mark.