History was made by La Cañada High junior Sophie Garcia at Saturday’s second and final day of the CIF Southern Section Girls’ Wrestling Championships at Eastvale Eleanor Roosevelt High.
The 170-pound grappler took third place in her weight class and became her school’s and the area’s first girls’ wrestler to qualify to the CIF State Meet, which is slated to take place from Feb. 23-24 at the Visalia Convention Center.
“It’s a really good feeling because last year was not a great year for me,” Garcia said. “I put in so much work after last year in the summer and in the spring and in the preseason and up until now. All that was for this and it really means a lot to me. My hard work paid off.”
Garcia is her school’s first state qualifier since 160-pounder Spencer Tompkins advanced to the tournament in 2007 and the first area qualifier since Hoover 195-pounder Edmen Shahbazyan in 2015.
“It means a lot to this program, but it means everything for Sophie,” said La Cañada boys’ coach and wrestling coordinator Justin Luthey, a former teammate of Tompkins. “This is big. It’s history and I couldn’t be prouder of Sophie and the work she’s put in.”
The eighth-ranked Garcia concluded a 5-1 run with two pins, while surrendering one fall and taking third place overall.
Garcia began the day in the semifinals after a 3-0 run through Friday’s first day of action.
The junior battled fourth-seeded Kiri Schell of Murrieta Valley before surrendering a late fall in 5 minutes, 56 seconds.
While the setback cost Garcia a chance at the crown, the seasoned wrestler responded in the second-chance bracket with a 5-1 victory over Etiwanda’s Lauryn Morales to advance to the third-place bout.
There, Garcia defeated Beaumont’s Joanna Hendricks, 1-0, to finish off a 2-1 afternoon.
“Her accomplishment is something that very few in La Cañada history have done,” La Cañada girls’ coach Alex Bache said. “The best thing is that it’s Sophie’s junior year, so she can still get even better.”
On Friday, Garcia collected pins over Beckman’s Tya Gray (5:39) and Hacienda Heights Wilson’s Melanie Aguilar (4:32) before being handed a default injury victory over top-seeded Jessica Gutierrez of Martin Luther King.
Garcia advanced to the Southern Section finals as a freshman and posted a 2-2 record, which was followed by a 1-2 mark at last season’s tournament.
She was joined on Friday by older sister Cheyenne Garcia.
The 189-pound senior did not advance to the second day after a 2-2 run that consisted of a pin over Tustin’s Sarah Lucero and a 5-0 victory over Moreno Valley’s Rosalia Casas along with a 5-1 loss to Northview’s Dejia Grijalva and a defeat via pin in 22 seconds by eventual upper weight most valuable wrestler Sierra Adams Gregory of Long Beach Millikan.
Both sisters propelled the La Cañada girls’ program to a 45th-place finish in the Southern Section with 27 points.