E.Exhaustion dripped from Alyssa Sandoval’s pores as she tried to end her first wrestling match.
Sandoval’s salvation was that she could see the same of her opponent, and that was the motivation she needed to keep going.
Sandoval usually played at Capital basketball during the winter, but the junior decided to give wrestling a try that season. Her first match took place on December 4th at Capital’s own Jaguar Invitational, and she faced Los Alamos’ Claire Bullock, who had a year of experience in the sport as a freshman in 2019-20.
It wasn’t a promising start as Sandoval fell 7-1 at the beginning of the second period, as their inexperience showed. In her search for motivation, she found it in the heavy breathing of her opponent.
“I couldn’t breathe, I was dying,” said Sandoval. “But then I look at her and she was kind of tired too. Then I thought ‘OK’ and then every muscle and bone in my body was trying to get it [down on the mat]. “
Sandoval didn’t win, but they made a respectable performance as they reached the end of the game, which Bullock won 10-5. At that moment, Sandoval said she knew she had found her calling.
“I had a feeling that I could do something here,” said Sandoval.
It helped her recover to finish first in the 114 pound division thanks to a pin from Los Alamos’ Jalyn Gould in her second game. She was one of five wrestlers to appear on the podium for Capital at their meeting.
With sophomore girls’ wrestling as a recognized sport in the state, Capital and Santa Fe High are starting to attract competitors. Sandoval is one of eight female wrestlers on the Capital program, while Santa Fe High has two.
Although the sport has been around for four years – the first two years were exhibition sports before the New Mexico Activities Association approved it – this year’s totals are the first time Santa Fe’s two largest public high schools have had participants.
Capital’s head wrestling coach Marcos Gallegos said he brought out a female wrestler for the shortened spring season – Junior Nisa Gallegos (no relationship) – but she injured her shoulder and was unable to compete. He went to great lengths to recruit female wrestlers, encouraging students from his physical education class he teaches, and setting up a booth during lunch break to generate interest.
It’s not an easy sale, said Gallegos.
“It was a pleasant surprise that these girls are ready to come and take on this challenge,” said Gallegos. “I mean, we have a lot of people who just can’t handle the exercises or the constant drilling and physicality of the sport.”
Santa Fe High head coach Lucas Trujillo said Eden Sladery and Alana Jaurez-Acevedo had previous wrestling experience and were looking for him to join the team.
Sladery won the £ 107 division in the meeting of Capital while Juarez-Acevedo finished second. She finished third in the Rio Hondo Scruffle on December 18th.
“These two girls are pretty good,” said Trujillo. “They hold out and they are much better than any girl I’ve taught before.”
Coach Gallegos and his staff teach a mixed group of veterans and newbies. The only virtue he’s learned is patience while trying to explain basic wrestling terminology and technique.
“We use the KISS technique – keep it simple, stupid,” said Marcos Gallegos. “So a lot of our technology is really simple. In that first month of November when we have no competition, we slowed down a bit to introduce the technology and keep it really simple. “
Veterans like Nisa Gallegos and Maliyah Maes, who were on the team in 2019-20 before missing spring due to the pandemic, are doing their part to help the inexperienced wrestlers learn and grow.
Nisa Gallegos said repeating similar concepts and techniques has been a blessing.
“I forget a few moves, but if we go over them again it will help me learn them,” said Nisa Gallegos. “Then when I’m in a match I just remember doing things over and over, so I’m more confident to do it.”
Maes said she helped Sandoval recruit into wrestling since the two are good friends and teammates on the volleyball team.
Sandoval trained with the wrestling program during physical education class, which made it easier to sell them on entry.
When that happened, Maes said other teammates and friends have shown some interest in wrestling, but she hopes they’ll get out sometime – even this year.
“There was one of our other volleyball players and she told me she was going to try,” said Maes. “She said she wanted to do it in her freshman year, but softball was her priority. She was so close to doing it. “
Sandoval said it was fascinating to try a new sport and coach Gallegos was open to letting her continue competing in club volleyball, which she did all winter.
She added that she’s not afraid to ask questions if she doesn’t understand a concept or technique, and she noted that other new wrestlers were doing the same.
“The coaches will explain something to me and sometimes they explain it and I say, ‘Okay, I don’t know what you’re saying,'” said Sandoval. “’For example, when you say’ turn here ‘or’ turn around ‘or’ grab here ‘. The girls who have experience or the boys come and explain it differently and that helps me. “
Sandoval said the first few weeks of training were eye opening in terms of conditioning.
She said that volleyball and basketball activities usually get the legs and shoulders in shape, but wrestling is a full-body workout – even in practice.
“I thought I was fit for other sports,” said Sandoval. “Then you come to wrestling and I think, ‘Dude, I’m out of shape at all!’ ”
Coach Gallegos said some of his wrestlers had the potential to do well in the February state tournament but cautioned against saying who and how many could make it.
Sandoval said it would be nice to be one of those state-owned providers, but she has a feeling that next year could be her opportunity to take some hardware home with her.
For now, she and her new teammates are keeping it simple.
“We always say: ‘Okay, this week we have to put 110 percent in,'” said Sandoval. “Then next Monday comes and we say, ‘Okay, this week we actually have to put 110 percent in.’ We just always try to push each other and aim for 110 percent. “