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Victoria Espinoza, Sr., Rancho Cotate

(235 pound weight class)


101: Krystal Lockwood, Jr., Lower Lake

106: Adriana Lopez, Fr., Upper Lake

111: Felicity Bernardo, Fr., Casa Grande

116: Abebrean Gonzales, Soph., Lower Lake

121: Brigitte Mihalca, Soph., Casa Grande

126: Kim Juarez, Jr., Analy

131: Nicole Karkar, Soph., Willits

137: Dana Johnson, Jr., Santa Rosa

143: Kayla Harrison, Fr., Ukiah

150: Mari Mendoza, Fr., Analy

160: Alexus Tavares, Sr., Piner

170: Kenya Henderson, Sr., Ukiah

189: Gabby Agenbroad, Sr., Willits

235: Michelle Larsen, Sr., Petaluma


101: Cindy Diaz, Soph., Petaluma

106: Samantha Hayman, Sr., Windsor

111: Citalalie Calderon, Soph., Petaluma

116: Alyssa Archer, Soph., Petaluma

121: Christin Wilson, Soph., Upper Lake

126: Selina Medrano, Sr., Casa Grande

131: Mikelynn Row, Fr., Lower Lake

137: Charlene Sanza, Jr., Rancho Cotate

143: Sarah Cook, Fr., Petaluma

150: Azucena Montesinos, Jr., Windsor

160: Raquel Mancilla, Soph., Rancho Cotate

170: Emma Desvaux, Soph., Rancho Cotate

189: Jasmin Clarke, Fr., Kelseyville

235: Kimberly Carrillo, Sr., Windsor


Shane Roberts, Ukiah

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.”

Beyond wrestling Espinoza said she has no interest in pursuing MMA or UFC but instead would like to be a probation officer for juveniles. She said she has been interested in criminal justice since seventh grade and plans on majoring in the subject in college.

Espinoza was a three-sport varsity athlete at Rancho her freshman year — wrestling, soccer and softball. By her junior season she had dropped the other sports in favor of wrestling exclusively year-round her final two years in high school.

“Victoria is a very, very humble gal. She is not cocky. She is just focused on what she does,” Windsor girls wrestling coach Scott Hayman said. “She is strong and a lot quicker than most heavyweights. She doesn’t get out of position or off balance. She is at the top of her game.”

Roberts said he thinks Espinoza will be a college all-American and that if she works hard enough she indeed can make the Olympics. With Espinoza’s talent and determination she is likely to continue to make an impact in women’s wrestling nationally. Throw in her dogged dedication and the tools are all there for high levels of future success.

“Once you step on that mat you are out there to fight, to win,” Espinoza said. “On the mat is my happy place.”

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