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CIF STATE GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIPS

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Visalia

Schedule: Matches begin at 9 a.m. Friday; consolation rounds at 9 a.m. Saturday, championship finals at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Defending team champion: Enochs

NCS BOYS CHAMPIONSHIPS

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: James Logan High School, Union City

Schedule: Matching begin at 9 a.m. Friday; championship rounds resume at 9 a.m. Saturday, championship semifinals at 11:30 a.m. and championship finals at 6:30 p.m.

Defending team champion: De La Salle

CIF state championship meet: March 4-5, Bakersfield

CIF state qualification: Top three finishers in each weight class from NCS meet will advance to state meet.


KELSEYVILLE — Christina Wilson is a wrestler, not a fighter.

But she’s got fight in her.

The lightning-quick 121-pound sophomore wrestler is Upper Lake High School’s first-ever North Coast Section wrestling champ. She’s also seeded No. 3 in the state for the CIF state wrestling championships this weekend in Visalia.

“She’s the toughest 121-pounder, boy or girl, I’ve ever coached,” coach Ron Campos said.

That’s saying something. Campos has logged decades at the helm of the wrestling programs at Kelseyville High and now Upper Lake.

Wilson’s coaches say her work ethic is unmatched. And she’s as tough as they come.

Earlier this season, Wilson caught an elbow at practice, cutting her eyelid open. She pinched the gash closed, applied some skin glue, then another layer of glue, and went back to it.

Asked about it, she said simply, “That burned really bad.”

It’s not just Wilson’s pain threshold that sets her apart.

At a multi-school postseason practice this week at Kelseyville High, athletes from different schools who have advanced to the North Coast Section meet for the boys and the CIF state championships for the girls were working out together to better match their weight classes.

It was hotter than Hades in the workout room. The heat was cranked up, to put the athletes in discomfort but also to help some cut weight.

Upper Lake coach Frank Gudmundson pointed to the corner of the room, to the gaggle of wrestlers “playing grab-ass.” A few feet away, Wilson wrestled freshman phenom Junior Fernandez, her regular workout partner. Then she moved on to another wrestler. After that, she took on Campos. She took exactly zero breaks.

Gudmundson shook his head in awe.

“She’s in there fighting for every minute, every second,” he said. “I don’t know if she can go half speed. It’s complete aggression, complete winning. It’s a great attitude.

“She’s fired up, motivated, and eats lives and breathes wrestling,” he said.

Which is why, last year, having to sit out was so painful.

Wilson got into a fight and was suspended from school. She had to sit out nearly half the wrestling season.

“That sucked. I regretted doing that,” she said. “I was suspended for a couple of days and I didn’t get to any tournaments, which was punishment enough.

“It made me think about myself, my actions more and the consequences,” she said.

I asked around and it seems a couple of come-to-Jesus conversations were had between Wilson and her coaches.

“Do it on the mat” is what Campos told her.

“How do you want to be remembered?” is what Gudmundson asked her.

Something clicked.

Wilson’s grades are up and her performance on the mat is phenomenal. She’s 27-5 this season and primed for the state tournament, where she finished just outside the final eight last year.

The faith of Campos and Gudmundson is now backed by hardware.

“Christina is the only boy or girl in the history of Upper Lake High to be a section champ in wrestling,” Campos said.

And she has nearly perfected an arm spin that flips the opponent onto their back — sooner rather than later.

“She throws them in this arm spin and they are sprawling on the mat looking up at the lights saying, ‘What the hell just happened?’ ” Gudmundson said. “Even the kids that wrestle her at practice know it’s coming, but she’s so good at it they don’t know when.”

CIF STATE GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIPS

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: Visalia

Schedule: Matches begin at 9 a.m. Friday; consolation rounds at 9 a.m. Saturday, championship finals at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Defending team champion: Enochs

NCS BOYS CHAMPIONSHIPS

When: Friday and Saturday

Where: James Logan High School, Union City

Schedule: Matching begin at 9 a.m. Friday; championship rounds resume at 9 a.m. Saturday, championship semifinals at 11:30 a.m. and championship finals at 6:30 p.m.

Defending team champion: De La Salle

CIF state championship meet: March 4-5, Bakersfield

CIF state qualification: Top three finishers in each weight class from NCS meet will advance to state meet.

They know as soon as they are on their back and hear Campos shout “Whack!” and laugh heartily — it’s what he does every time Wilson executes the move.

Wilson knows it’s her signature move. So much so that in the NCS tournament, she withheld it — saving it up for the final when she faced Eureka High’s Kiah Martin, an athlete Wilson describes as “aggressive.”

So just moments into the final, Wilson went for it, just to set the tone.

“That was the very first thing, it just ripped her heart out right there,” she said. “It just shocked her.”

This week, Wilson worked the move over and over again against Fernandez, who is headed to the NCS boys meet this weekend. Wilson and her coaches credited the partnership with advancing her game.

“She gets beat up every day by Junior. She’ll never quit,” Gudmundson said.

Wilson doesn’t dispute this. It’s all a test.

“It’s hard. I get my butt whooped every day but it makes me better,” she said. “It does bring my ego down, losing a lot. But when I start winning in the real-life matches, it’s worth it.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”