SUNNYSIDE — Strength, agility and determination marked the Sunnyside High School girls wrestling team, who sat atop the Washington state rankings throughout the 2018-19 season.
Although the regular season ended in February, these athletes are constantly training, whether with clubs in the Yakima Valley such as Granger’s Victory Wrestling team or in the SHS training room during the summer months.
This summer, the Lady Grizzlies are hard at work to be stronger and better than they were during last year’s tour of wrestling tournaments and matches.
“We spend an hour in the weight room and an hour working on technique,” Coach Dave Mendoza said.
For the past three years, the program has come a long way with an emphasis on the athleticism of the team, he said.
Those taking part in the summer training are focused on physical and mental preparedness, Mendoza said.
It’s important to start early so the athletes are ready to take on their opponents from the beginning of the season, he remarked.
Mendoza believes in ensuring their training is adaptable, adding something different to the schedule, and providing the tools for the right mindset when his wrestlers first hit the mats in competition.
“It’s crucial to push them, so we don’t lose momentum,” Mendoza said.
Among those training are freshmen Alexxus Ramos and Vivianna Daniel, who have performed well at large tournaments across the nation.
Incoming senior Lourdes “Luli” Torres, who’s familiar with the State Mat Classic — having placed second this past season — is also training.
Last Wednesday, July 17, Torres was working out with the others when she’d planned to have been competing at the USMC/USAW Junior National Freestyle Championships in Fargo, N.D.
“I tore a ligament in my ankle at the World Team Trials in Texas,” Torres lamented.
This summer, she’s not only been training, but winning titles in Greco and Freestyle wrestling. The most recent dual titles, prior to her injury, were won at a state competition in Centralia.
Now, Torres is focused on getting her ankle back in condition for her final season as a high school competitor.
There have been other injuries throughout her career, but Torres said this is the first one to sideline her.
She’s looking forward to dominating the 155-pound weight class again.
“At first, I was discouraged because I fell short again, but I figured I had to go back to my roots and get in the right mindset again,” Torres said.
Two of her former Grizzly teammates did make it to the national tournament — Mireya Sanchez and Stephanie Blankenship.
The pair just graduated last month and are preparing for their collegiate debuts at Warner Pacific and Big Bend Community College, respectively.
Mendoza said the athletes have had some adjustments, having to change their wrestling style because college wrestling is freestyle instead of folkstyle.
“It’s difficult if you’ve never done it before,” he said, noting both have been transitioning with a few disappointments along the way.
They are the only two wrestlers the Lady Grizzlies lose this coming season.
There is a strong core group, Mendoza said, noting several of the girls who traveled to State Mat Classic XXXI, in February will return.
Mendoza has confidence his team can claim the Mat Classic title at the end of the 2019-20 season.
“Our goal isn’t to be competitive… our goal is to dominate,” he said. “We have the make-up, chemistry and attitudes to do that.”