by EVELYN WONG
Grappling her way toward the top five wrestlers in California, senior Sarah Zaragoza sets an example for local female athletes for years to come.
Zaragoza placed No. 2 at the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) competition, advancing to No. 5 at Masters and placing 5th at state championships in the 121-pound weight class.
“When I realized that I had placed fifth in state, I didn’t feel superior, but that I worked hard to get there and deserved it,” said Zaragoza. “It felt very rewarding because most of the girls I competed against had been wrestling for nine years, while I started three years ago.”
Beginning her final match against Cindy Pelayo from East Bakersfield High School with a trailing score of 4-0, Zaragoza managed to tie the match through a bottom escape and near fall against her opponent.
“When I was in the bottom position, I heard my coach saying ‘Get up–you just need one point,'” Zaragoza said. “I escaped my opponent thinking it would tie the match and take us to overtime, but I was extremely happy when I discovered I had won.”
Zaragoza joined the wrestling team as a sophomore, one year after the formation of the first girls’ wrestling team. This season, she successfully accomplished her aspirations of placing among the top wrestlers in every league tournament, including CIF, Masters and state championships.
“The hardest part about this season was weight cutting,” Zaragoza said. “I starved myself for two days in a row before every tournament and often snapped at my teammates and family. I’m not a sane person without food,” she added with a chuckle.
According to Zaragoza, despite busy practice schedules and severe dieting, becoming a wrestler provided a conduit through which she was able to bond with her family.
“Wrestling definitely brought me closer to my mother and my sister, because they’re more into wrestling than I am and supported me at every competition,” she said. “My mom especially inspired me to work hard, while my sister had a common sport that we loved and could bond over.”
Planning to continue her wrestling career in college, Zaragoza hopes to inspire future female wrestlers to have confidence in their abilities.
“I hope [my achievement] opened the way for rising Schurr athletes to believe in themselves, regardless of how they compare to other wrestlers,” said Zaragoza. “Now that our school name is out there, I don’t want our girls to feel that they can’t make their dreams happen because of the experience factor–I want them to know that they’re not nobodies.”