As the sport of girls wrestling continues to evolve across California and inside different high school gymnasiums, Cabrillo High officially has its most successful and renowned female grappler for the 2016-17 haul – new Los Padres League champion Lesly Hernandez.
And Hernandez is collecting her mat accolades in her third season of grappling, including a recent silver medal.
The 101-pound junior knocked off grapplers from Pioneer Valley, Santa Maria and Nipomo to secure her first league championship on Jan. 28 at the LPL/PAC 8 girls league finals. She followed that performance up with a second-place mark at the girls CIF Southern Section Northern Regional at Pioneer Valley during the weekend of Feb. 4.
And now the next accolade she’s in pursuit of? That would be a CIF Sate Championship appearance, which she attempted to do on Saturday in Corona. Hernandez took on Rowland Heights' Grace Padilla in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Masters Meet. For the results of that competition, check out Wednesday's Lompoc Record.
“I’ve improved a lot throughout the year since I was a freshman. Hopefully I can improve this coming weekend,” Hernandez said after the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table at Giavanni’s in Orcutt on Monday, as she was one of five Cabrillo athletes who were present at the weekly luncheon.
Her league championship meets saw Hernandez gain the upper hand in the first period.
“In the league meet, they were all really competitive girls. It was good because I like competition and getting physical with them. But they all got pinned by the first period. So they weren’t much of a challenge,” Hernandez said.
But she started to see an increase in mat competition at PVHS the following week, as she said a Calabasas wrestler (Claudia Zimmerman) defeated her.
“It was more of a challenge down south because it took me all three periods to complete my matches,” Hernandez said. “I was winning in the first period. I was about to pin her, but after the period was over, I was really gassed. I hadn’t been practicing because of my wrists.”
She’s not only one of head coach Mike Wallace’s most successful wrestlers, but she’s one of the older athletes on the CHS mat, as she’s helping lead a predominantly freshman and sophomore lineup on varsity.
Hernandez had her doubts early on when she decided to take up wrestling three years ago.
“Yes there were (some nerves). In the beginning, I would only wrestle against guys but toward the end, I started wrestling girls,” Hernandez said.
She not only encourages her teammates to cradle, pin or execute takedowns and reversals on their opponents on Wednesdays and weekends during the winter sports season, Hernandez said her whole team and the CHS coaching staff are equally supportive of her.
“All the coaches have helped me improve and they pour their heart into it. They tell me ‘Don’t give up and pin her,’” Hernandez said, smiling.
She hasn’t gotten the chance to enjoy her league champion or silver medal yet. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t reflected back on her journey from novice wrestler to one of the black and gold’s best on the mat this season.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. But I’m proud of myself for improving a lot,” Hernandez said.