The Mira Costa girls wrestling program is still in its infancy as a team sport, but progress is coming in small increments. They are building a team one girl at a time and after a recent tournament are showing signs of a breakout season.
Mira Costa won the second annual Josh Allen Memorial, San Pedro Girls Wrestling 6-way on Dec. 5. Six wrestlers went 3-0 on the day for Mira Costa, which beat three teams.
Mira Costa beat Warren 48-36, San Pedro/Peninsula 60-24 and Warren/Banning (B) team 60-24.
“Warren is a great team that we haven't been able to beat over the years,” said Mira Costa girls wrestling head coach Jimmy Chaney.“This was a major accomplishment for us.”
The tournament was a dual meet tournament with girls competing in each of the schools in the dual matches.
Mira Costa’s Haley Barton, Sara Burge, Cali Sheldon, Lily Ryan, Fiona Thomas and Catalina Sullivan all went 3-0 and won by pins.
“My matches were short and against mostly inexperienced people so they were pretty easy,” Thomas said. “Our practices are three hours a day, five days a week so I felt really prepared.”
The success is a great building block for the team going forward.
“Our team has done great so far this year,” said Sheldon, who wrestled at 121 lbs. “We got first place at our San Pedro tournament and had six individual placers, which was a great start to our season, especially considering we beat Warren, who beat us last year and are likely going to have a really good season ahead of us.”
It was a breakthrough event for some of the wrestlers like junior Lily Ryan.
“It was my first time placing at a varsity event, so I’m really happy to start the season this way,” said Ryan, who enjoyed the success of the team’s performance as well. “I’m really proud of how our team did overall.”
It is a performance that now they will try to duplicate again and again.
“I’m thrilled our girls team is dominating this early in the season,” Barton said. “The support and success was crazy during the tournament and it’s great to see what our hard work turned into. I can’t wait for what’s to come.”
Chaney feels this year’s team is his best team to date.
“This is the best dual meet team we have ever had,” Chaney said. “We have had individuals go far but never such a solid team.”
While he has some open spots at certain weight classes, he has some depth to work with which is important.
“What makes our team so much stronger this year than in the past is the number of solid junior and sophomore performers we have returning,” said the coach.
Those underclassmen and their weight class they wrestle at include Barton, junior, 101; Burge, sophomore, 106; Katherine Clark, junior, 121; Tabitha Lambert, junior, 126; Ryan, junior, 131; JJ Normil, sophomore, 137, and Jessica Patton, junior, 143.
The team is led by seniors Sheldon and Thomas, both who qualified for CIF last year. They will normally wrestle at 116 and 150.
“They lead our team not just by being the most successful wrestlers, but by being great role models to the other girls,” Chaney said. “I feel like the leadership from people like Cali and Fiona are the reason our team is getting better and better each year.”
Those two have higher aspirations than most of the others and for good reason.
“Fiona has put extra time in at the club level, working with Gary Barios a former NCAA All-American,” Chaney said. “Cali has been able to build her success by hard work in the room and strength training.”
Those two wrestlers would expect to have the most success this year out of all the others.
“I’m a senior and my goal is to place at CIF this year,” Thomas said.
“We have eight returning wrestlers who all have a very promising season and both Fiona and I are hoping to go to state this year,” Sheldon said.
State is a realistic goal for both, according to Chaney.
“Fiona and Cali have a real shot to make it to state this year. They have been undefeated at the local level, so I believe they can both win league this year.”
Other wrestlers are also earning notice from Chaney.
“One of our best surprises was to see Catalina Sullivan, who is a new wrestler, winning the novice championship at the Halloween Open and then to win the first varsity tournament she has ever wrestled in. She has a bright future ahead in wrestling.”
Overall, Mira Costa is being affected somewhat by not having a facility this year.
“Since, we are without a gym due to construction, we do not have the number of girls out that we usually have,” Chaney said. “It was hard to recruit without a place to do a demonstration for the PE classes. We only have 15 girls on the team. But I feel all 15 are doing well and I'm very proud of them.”