By Ray Hamill — The Eureka girls wrestling team has been setting the standard recently for Loggers sports, and the rest of the school is taking notice.
On Friday, the female wrestlers were named Team of the Year as the Logger ESPYs continued.
“We stepped up our game this year, and we put in the work,” head coach Cecil Wilson after the award was announced.
The team has quickly evolved into not just the most dominating in the sport locally, but also a force in the North Coast Section and even beyond.
In addition to winning a second straight league title this past winter, the Loggers placed third overall in the NCS, with seven girls medalling there and three advancing to the state championships.
Wilson and assistant coach Thomas Gowing deliberately set up a more challenging schedule for the team this year with top-level tournaments throughout December and January.
And it’s a strategy that paid big dividends.
“It turns out that by going out and looking for competition we were able to finish strong,” the head coach said.
The bad news for the rest of the H-DNL and NCS is that the Loggers will graduate just three seniors this year, with five of their seven NCS medalists and two state qualifiers set to return next winter.
All three seniors are expected to continue their wrestling career at the collegiate level, including Aracely Rendon, who placed sixth at state and has received a scholarship to compete at Eastern Oregon University.
Her twin sister Yarceli also received a scholarship to wrestle in Oregon, joining the Umpqua women’s program, where she will study law enforcement.
A third senior Evelyn Lopez-Mata also will wrestle in college and is weighing her options right now.
As for what made this year’s team special, Wilson believes two things stand out.
“One, it was their commitment to the program,” said the head coach, who remarkably had just two wrestlers quit out of 31 who tried out, an impressive number for such a grueling sport. “And I have to also say my assistant coach Thomas (is what made this team special.) He’s a student of the sport … And he has a real heart for character development.”
That character development, according to Wilson, is every bit as important as wins and losses and remains a priority for the program.
The Logger ESPYs honor the school’s senior student athletes and are voted on by senior student athletes and coaches.
This year the ESPYs are being handed out over a nine-day period instead of on one night.
The awards continue on Saturday when the Game of the Year will be announced.