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Garcia Qualifies For State - Wrestlers Prepare For TVL Championships
Riverbank High junior wrestler Melissa Garcia became the first female Bruin to ever qualify for the California Girls State Tournament after a third place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Invitational on Saturday at McNair High in Stockton.

Garcia fought back from a tournament opening loss with five consecutive victories in the 165-pound consolation bracket, ultimately avenging her only loss and capturing the tournament's most impressive pin-fall along the way.

"It makes the whole season when someone accomplishes something like this," Riverbank coach Martin Ugalde said. "She lost her first match, but got going like a wildfire and came back to become the first girl from Riverbank to go to state."

Garcia opened her tournament with a pin-loss to Gabriela Guzman of Edison, who captured runner-up honors at the 2011 girls state tournament. The defeat dropped Garcia to the consolation bracket, where another loss would end her season.

Instead, Garcia captured four straight pin victories to reach the third place match and guarantee a top-four medal and state qualification. She faced serious danger of elimination when Guzman lost to returning state champion, Juliana Triplett of Ripon, in the semifinals. Guzman fell to the consolation semifinals, where she was paired with Garcia for a winner-take-all state berth match.

But Guzman's expected return to the state meet was brought to a halt when Garcia landed a clutch pin to advance her season. The Lady Bruin wrestler would go on to best No. 3 seed Alyssa Cantu of Weston Ranch 2-0 to snare third.

"She just wrestled so tough, and I am so proud of her," Ugalde said. "Girls wrestling is a little different because girls that lose and girls that win will often cry after their matches.

"I almost cried myself."

The Girls State Tournament is Feb. 24 and 25 at Lemoore High School. Garcia and other top-four finishers from the SJS will tackle 12 state qualifiers from the So-Cal Regional and four apiece from the Central Coast and North Coast Regional. The girls will divide into 14 brackets with five championship rounds and six consolation rounds.


Riverbank closed the regular season with a 71-12 loss to Hilmar, and will send a deep crop of wrestlers to compete at the junior varsity level at the Trans-Valley League Individual Championships on Saturday at Escalon.

Ruben Lopez and Junior Tovar both snared pin victories against Hilmar, and will both fight for varsity medals in their respective weights on Saturday. Victor Machuca, Jose Martinez and Javier Gaxiola will also vie for a top-four finish and qualification to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships.

"I think those five guys going varsity should be somewhere in the pack for contention to go to divisionals," Ugalde said. "I'm throwing the rest of the guys to the JV brackets."