Balers send two girls to state championships

Balers sophomore Jenna Hartman gets her arm raised in victory after winning the 3rd-place match in last Saturday's CCS Championships. Photo by Chris Mora.

For the first time in program history, San Benito High will be sending two girls to the CIF State Wrestling Championships. Sophomore Jenna Hartman and senior Maribel Saucedo earned state berths with strong showings in last Saturday’s Central Coast Section Championships at Overfelt High.

Hartman and Saucedo won third-place matches in their respective weight classes, with Hartman defeating Santa Cruz’s Maya Letona 2-0 at 111 pounds and Saucedo pinning Woodside’s Valentina Munoz in the first 40 seconds in the 170-pound division. Hartman, who suffered a bloody nose early in the bout, looked like she had been in a brawl as the referee raised her hand in victory.

“I’m not sure what to think; it’s like it didn’t even happen,” she said. “It was a pretty intense match because we both know each other well. I had to play defense with her being an aggressive wrestler.”

Hartman had already beaten Letona twice this season, both via pinfall. However, the third match between the two standouts proved to be a battle of attrition, with points hard to come by. Hartman said it was difficult scoring points because of how familiar they were with one another.

“I didn’t take any shots because I didn’t see any openings,” she said. “I knew I needed to be on the bottom because I could escape since her ground game isn’t that great. This is probably my No. 1 accomplishment, and it means a lot. I thought I’d be wrestling in the finals, but my expectations were a little too high. But third is good.”

Especially when it earns you a state berth. Saucedo had the goal to make it to state in the final season of her high school career. But things looked bleak after she lost her opening match and was sent to the consolation bracket. Saucedo proceeded to win four straight matches to close out the tournament strong, culminating with a quick pin in the third-place match.

Saucedo utilized a classic wrestling move—the barb wire—to get the pin.

“She used a cross face series that we work on in practice quite a bit,” Haybalers coach Steven Salcedo said. “I’m really excited for all the girls, especially Maribel. She has grown not only on the mat, but in school, too. She was rough around the edges as a freshman and sophomore, but I’ve been getting real nice compliments from her teachers and people at school saying they see a difference in her. Wrestling has helped change her demeanor and self-confidence. Although she is very quiet, she’s turned it around. I’m really proud of her. She needs wrestling, and wrestling has been awesome for her.”

Once Saucedo lost her first match, she masterfully focused on the task at hand, moving through the bracket with a simple approach. A wrestler of few words, Saucedo is the epitome of letting your actions do all the talking. She stuck to her strengths, using several single-leg takedowns en route to a third-place finish.

“I wanted to go to state and do my best,” Saucedo said. “I’m excited to go to state. I’ve improved since I was a freshman. I have more skill and I’m quicker.”

Salcedo was proud of the entire team, and can’t wait to see how it competes going forward. Madeline Pena, a budding sophomore, took fifth in the 121-pound division. Pena was unseeded, but produced one of her best tournament performances of the season at the perfect time.

“Maddie got her feet wet last year, and this year she took a big step up,” Salcedo said. “We’re looking forward to her working out in the summer and coming into next year with big goals.”

If Hartman continues to improve, there’s no telling how far she could go. Hartman has an indefatigable work ethic, and has made huge strides from just a year ago.

“I’ll work harder this summer so I can get in the first and second place match next year,” she said.

“Jenna has been our most committed wrestler,” Salcedo said. “She put in extra work over the summer, did a few camps and has really been taking wrestling seriously. We expect her to continue to do freestyle (tournaments) this summer, and we’re looking forward to the future. The only girl that gave her trouble was from North Salinas, and she is a senior. Coming into the season next year, Jenna should be one or two in the CCS.”

Balers senior Maribel Saucedo took the 3rd-place match in the CCS Championships last Saturday.

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