Watsonville High senior Joselyn Gutierrez earned a trip to the upcoming CIF State Wrestling Championships at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield on Feb. 22-24. (Raul Ebio/The Pajaronian)

In the span of just one year, Watsonville High senior Joselyn Gutierrez went from learning the basics of wrestling to qualifying for a state berth.  

The standout Wildcatz athlete took fourth in the 130-pound weight class bracket at the Central Coast Section Masters Tournament held inside her home gymnasium Feb. 17.  

Gutierrez dropped a 2-1 decision to Grace Saso of Mitty High in the third place match and finished 3-2 with three wins by fall.

“I’m pretty impressed with how I did. I didn’t expect to get this far,” she said. 

The top four wrestlers in each of the 14 weight divisions advanced to the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield on Feb. 22-24.

Gutierrez was escorted through downtown Watsonville on Wednesday by local police and first responder vehicles. The parade began at noon in front of the school’s old gymnasium, heading north on Lincoln Street, west on East Lake Avenue to Main Street and finally out Riverside Drive and Highway 129 en route to Bakersfield with police and fire vehicle’s sirens and lights on full blast.

Last year, Danisha Nuñez was escorted out of town in the same fashion. Gutierrez will become the seventh girl in the program’s history to earn a State berth. 

“I saw it last year, [Danisha Nuñez] got escorted,” Gutierrez said. “When I saw that, I thought it must be really nice to make it to State and experience something like that. Now I get to experience that moment.”

Gutierrez will be tested right away in the first round against No. 2 seed Jasmine Macias of Walnut High, which competes in the CIF Southern Section. 

The initial thought of qualifying for the CIF State Championships didn’t come to fruition with Gutierrez until people kept reminding her about it.

“That’s when it started to hit me, ‘Wow, this is actually something really big,’” she said. 

In just her second year ever of wrestling, Gutierrez’s improvement on the mat skyrocketed. She admitted her rookie season as a junior wasn’t great and felt she was inconsistent. 

Gutierrez—who was also a star for the girls flag football team—decided to put in the extra work during the offseason and now it’s really paying off. She said people doubted her, and it went to the point where she felt discriminated against because she’s a woman playing “manly” sports. 

“I wanted to get involved in the sport,” she said. “I wanted to get better at wrestling for myself.” 

The road to State began with a win against Micaela Barr-Gutierrez of Presentation High, followed by a victory over Kaja McCullough of Los Gatos in the second round.

Gutierrez lost to eventual champion Tamara Grace of Gilroy High in the semifinals, but then bounced back with a win over Sophia Sevaaetasi of Monterey High that put Gutierrez in the third place match with Saso.

Fellow Watsonville teammate Martha Zurita (125-pounds) failed to advance to the CIF State Championships and finished with a 1-2 record.  

Gilroy won the team title with a score of 170.5 points, followed by Alisal High (163.0) in second and Monterey (98.0) took third.

Scotts Valley (49.0) was the top team from Santa Cruz County, placing 10th in the 87-team Masters Tournament.

Other local State qualifiers include Aptos High senior Janie Houser (125) who took second after dropping a 2-0 decision to Gilroy High senior Mary Jane Porter in the final. Houser finished 3-1 with three wins by fall.

Houser—who currently holds a 4.2 grade point average—felt ill throughout the week leading into the section championships. It prevented her from being able to attend both school and practice. 

“I weighed in way under because I was so sick,” she said.

A second place finish means Houser won’t earn a seed in this weekend’s state championships. She will take on Highland High junior Miriam Guadamuz out of the Central Section.

“I’m gonna probably have to wrestle a high seed pretty early in it because I didn’t win CCS. So, I’m gonna have to deal with that,” Houser said. “I need to get better, catch up on school before I go.”

Scotts Valley High senior Danica Kelley captured her second straight section title after another dominant performance at the Central Coast Section Wrestling Championships this past weekend.

The Falcons’ star placed first after beating Joseline Hernandez of Alisal High in an 8-0 major decision in the 135-pound weight class championship bout at Watsonville High on Feb. 17. 

“It’s a pretty exciting close to my senior year and it’s nice to have a good win going into State. I’m just happy to be finishing it off like this,” Kelley said.

Scotts Valley senior Kayce Martinovsky (140-pounds) will also make the trek to Bakersfield. She pinned Sophia Crews of North Salinas to take third place in last weekend’s tournament. 

“I lost in the semis and that could have really easily allowed that to affect my [mentality],” said Martinovsky, who finished 4-1 with three wins by fall. “That’s happened a lot this season, I lose in the earlier rounds and I just let it mess with my head…the goal is always to win, but like I said, not everything goes to plan.”

Kelley—who earned the No. 2 seed in the CIF State Championships—said she just wanted to cap off her senior year with a bang before heading off to compete at the collegiate level.

“I really am aiming to win,” she said. “It’s the last shot at redemption at State. My last two years I didn’t do as good as I wanted to. But this year I feel like I’ve been wrestling way cleaner, and it’s kind of just the last hurrah before college. I’m pretty excited”

Gutierrez said she wants to experience the moment and no matter the outcome, her goal is to leave it all out on the mat one last time in a Wildcatz uniform. 

“I’m looking forward to being ready,” she said. “Just be prepared for everything, seeing how things go. Keep being positive about it and not bringing myself down.” 

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Joselyn Gutierrez became the second girl in the Watsonville High wrestling program’s history to earn a CIF State Wrestling Championships berth, which is incorrect. Gutierrez becomes the seventh girl to qualify for the tournament.

Boys wrestling 

Aptos High junior Lucas Zuniga (285) took second and punched his ticket to Bakersfield. He was pinned by Gilroy High senior Cody Merrill—the No. 1 ranked high school wrestler in the nation at 220 pounds and Oklahoma State University commit. 

The top four wrestlers in each of the 14 weight divisions advanced to this upcoming weekend’s CIF State Championships.

Monte Vista Christian junior Ryker Resureccion failed to advanced after he finished with an 0-2 record in last weekend’s section finals.

SLV senior Logan Hede (165) had a 2-2 record and was eliminated in the consolation bracket after dropping an 11-6 decision to Anthony Gutierrez of Westmont High.

Fellow Cougars teammate Grady Cloyd (175) was 0-2, while both Ollin Bates (190) and Gabriel Attia (215) went 1-2 in the tournament.  

Scotts Valley sophomore Angelo Vignato (126) was eliminated after losing two straight matches.

Gilroy (360.5 points) won the 87-team event. Los Gatos (207.0) took second, and Palo Alto (98.5) was third.

Aptos (22.0) took 20th and was the top program from Santa Cruz County. San Lorenzo Valley (18.0) tied for 24th and Watsonville (7.0) placed 39th. Scotts Valley and Monte Vista Christian did not register a point. 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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