Rancho Cotate senior Victoria Espinoza — this year’s California wrestling state champion in the 235-pound weight class — is a once-in-a-generation wrestler as her accomplishments clearly document. Add one more accolade to her long list: 2015-16 All-Empire girls wrestler of the year.
Espinoza certainly has a long list of titles racked up. This year, she won the NBL, NCS, CIF state championship (defeating Petaluma senior Michelle Larsen), and USA Wrestling National Championship in the folkstyle format. She was so dominant (30-0 record) that she pinned all but one opponent and only got scored on once, giving up three points to her opponent at the national championship. Espinoza’s barnstorming tour has made her the top wrestler in the entire country in her weight class.
“It has been a good year for me so far,” Espinoza said. “It took a couple of weeks for both the CIF and national championship titles to sink in. It was satisfying to win both of them. All of my hard work paid off.”
Espinoza’s four-year high school career highlights include: USA national title; CIF state title (she was two-time finalist and four-time tournament qualifier, finishing seventh, sixth, second, and finally first); three-time NCS champion (four-time finalist); and two-time NBL champion (three-time finalist). Espinoza also made it to the 2015 final of the USA Wrestling National Championship in freestyle format and was named a national three-time high-school All-American.
“Victoria’s accomplishments are truly amazing,” said her former Rancho Cotate coach Damien Mason. “She is the real deal.”
Even with all her success on the mat, Espinoza has a few traits that lie below the surface as she dominated this year. Numerous Empire wrestling coaches mentioned how humble and relaxed Espinoza is, at least when she isn’t competing.
“Victoria is a sweet girl off the mat,” Ukiah girls wrestling coach Shane Roberts said. “She is a beast on the mat. She dominates but doesn’t show girls up even when she beats them. I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t like her, even girls that she wrestles against.”
Espinoza will wrestle in college at NAIA Oklahoma City University on a near-full scholarship. In college she will have to drop weight class to 191 pounds — the highest limit in college.
Perhaps Espinoza’s biggest prize is yet to come — she said she has her eye on representing the United States in the 2020 or 2024 Olympics.
“My goal is to go to the Olympics at 165 pounds (top weight class),” Espinoza said. “A lot of my California coaches are confident I can make it but it is going to be really tough to get there. I will have to have three practices a day for the rest of my wrestling career with no days off.”
Espinoza said she enjoyed mentoring the younger wrestlers on the Rancho squad and views herself as an ambassador of the sport.
“I try and grow the sport of wrestling,” she said. “(But) I don’t want to be one of those people that are screaming at teammates.”
Interestingly, Espinoza said she never worked out with weights, partly because her technique was solid.
“The cleaner the technique the less you have to use your strength,” she said. “I’ll need to lift weights in college, three times a week.”