Southern Oregon University women’s wrestling coach Tony Champion knew Grandview’s Desiree Zavala was the real deal when she visited the Ashland, Ore., campus last fall.
After Zavala, an SOU signee, destroyed the competition at 145 pounds to win her fourth state title last month, Champion knew he hit the jackpot.
“She visited our campus this past fall,” Champion said. “I ran her through a workout when she was here. I could tell immediately she was a high-level, high-intensity wrestler. She is our first high-level legitimate recruit on our team. She is definitely going to help take us to the next level.”
Zavala, the Herald’s All-Area Wrestler of the Year for the second consecutive year, finished her senior season with a 33-0 record. All of her wins were by pin.
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“I like to think anyone can beat me, but it is up to me to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Zavala said. “I can’t get too cocky. I could lose at any moment.”
Not much chance of that. In four years, Zavala lost one match — in double overtime of the regional finals her freshman year.
Zavala is one of three girls to win four Washington state titles. Puyallup’s Jordyn Bartelson (120 pounds) also won her fourth state championship this year. Kiona-Benton’s Sheridan McDonald was the first (2008-11).
Along with Zavala’s title, the Greyhounds won the state team championship for the second year in a row, beating runner-up Mt. Baker by 19 points with just four wrestlers.
“I didn’t even think we had a chance of winning it this year,” Zavala said. “I figured Mt. Baker would be one of them — they had 10 girls — and Federal Way.”
Grandview coach Bob Johnson was named Coach of the Year, while all three of Zavala’s teammates — Maria Reyes (100), Viannei Perez (105) and Jasel Perez (120) — joined her on the first team.
Rounding out the first team are: Makayla Grimm of Columbia-Burbank (110); Jackie Peguero (115), Nikki Velazquez (130) and Kaylee Martinez (140) of Othello; Sunnyside’s Daisy Chavez (125), Cassidy Ochoa (190) and Margarita Torres (235); Pasco’s Danielle Gibson (135); Elsa Gonzalez (155) of Kiona-Benton; and Caily Mendez (170) of Connell.
Johnson, who took over the girls program this season when Ramiro Gonzalez moved over to the boys program, said the culture didn’t change when he took over.
“They work hard,” Johnson said of his charges. “Desiree has been wrestling since she was 4 years old. She came into high school really strong for a girl, and that helped her a lot. She could beat the boys. She was in our lineup and beat boys from other teams her freshman year. There’s only two or three girls in the United States who can give her a match. I wasn’t worried about a girl from Washington standing in the way of her fourth title.”
And then there are the Perez sisters.
“They beat each other up in practice for an hour and a half,” Johnson said. “They make each other better.”
Zavala and Viannei Perez are graduating, but Johnson said the cupboard isn’t bare.
“I’ve got some middle school girls coming up who will be good,” he said. “We have open gym four days a week, and the ones who are dedicated show up.”
In addition to Southern Oregon, Zavala visited King University in Bristol, Tenn. But it wasn’t the right fit for her.
“I visited (SOU) in October, and in my head, I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Zavala said. “I like the coach’s mentality, his work ethic. I know some girls on the team, and it was closer to home than Tennessee.”
Said Champion: “I thought we could get her to come here. Just happens to work out that she wants to go into nursing. She’ll fit in fine here. We are a new program, but our wrestling philosophy is 60 years old.”
100: Maria Reyes, so., Grandview. 105: Viannei Perez, sr., Grandview. 110: Makayla Grimm, sr., Columbia-Burbank. 115: Jackie Peguero, fr., Othello. 120: Jasel Perez, so., Grandview. 125: Daisy Chavez, sr., Sunnyside. 130: Nikki Velazquez, jr., Othello. 135: Danielle Gibson, jr., Pasco. 140: Kaylee Martinez, jr., Othello. 145: Desiree Zavala, sr., Grandview. 155: Elsa Gonzalez, jr., Kiona-Benton. 170: Caily Mendez, sr., Connell. 190: Cassidy Ochoa, jr., Sunnyside. 235: Margarita Torres, jr., Sunnyside.
Best of the rest
105: Stephanie Blankenship, fr., Sunnyside. 125: Elizabeth Giles, so., Othello. 130: Dempsi Talkington, so., River View 135: Stephania Fernandez, so., Sunnyside. 140: Hailey Hall, sr., Pasco. 145: Natalie Hall, so., Pasco. 155: Aylin Bautista, jr., Sunnyside.