Sports

Gunn's Lee takes aim at pinning down state wrestling title

To hear Gunn wrestling head coach Chris Horpel describe it, his star senior wrestler Cadence Lee has the perfect Jekyll and Hyde personality to succeed in athletic competition.

Off the mat, Lee is one of the nicest and most coachable people that Horpel has ever met, soaking up every wrestling instruction and technique that is presented to her.

On the mat, Lee becomes one of the fiercest competitors her coach has ever seen, with enormous athletic talent, and an impressive game face to boot.

"She's a very unique person, one that comes along every 20 years or so," Horpel said. "Athletes like Cadence are just a joy to coach. You love to have them and you hate to lose them."

Both sides of Lee have helped shape her into one of the most proficient high school wrestlers in the nation, as Lee's laundry list of wrestling accomplishments includes four consecutive CCS championships, a CIF State championship, three national championships and an eighth-place finish at the World Championships in Serbia.

Starting Friday, Lee will look to add another achievement to her resume, as she attempts to capture her second straight CIF State Girls Wrestling Championship at the Visalia Convention Center.

"There definitely is a lot of pressure," Lee said of trying to repeat as state champion. "I'm going to try to just go at it one match at a time, put everything I have into it. Hopefully I'll come back with another title."

Lee will compete in the 106-pound division of the state tournament this weekend, after winning the 103-pound division last year.

In the opening round, Lee will wrestle against Mia Hill from Weston Ranch High School (Stockton, with a possible match against Marjoree Fargas from Paramount High in the second round.

Lee has primarily wrestled against boys this season and has more than held her own; compiling over 20 victories with only four loses.

Her success has come at a higher weight class than last season, as Lee decided to move up from the 106-pound division to the much tougher 113-pound division for the dual-meet season, in order to give fellow senior wrestler Michael Abramovitch a chance to start at 106.

Although going up a weight class took some adjustment, Lee thought that the change helped her become a superior overall wrestler.

"At the lower weight class, sometimes I'd just be able to out-power the guys or out-muscle them," Lee said. "Wrestling up (a weight class) helped me improve, because at this weight I really have to make sure that my technique is solid in order to beat them."

Lee's success wrestling against boys this season culminated at the SCVAL finals, where Lee pinned Elvin Labucay of Santa Clara to capture her first league title against boys.

Wrestling so many boys this year, Lee hasn't had as much opportunity to wrestle against girls, and Lee acknowledged there were some technique differences to wrestling the two genders.

"I'd say in general guys are a lot stronger, but girls are much more flexible," Lee said. "(Against girls) I have to make sure, they can't limp out anything, or trip their way out of something, so that's what's different in general. I still try and wrestle girls and guys with the same mentality to try and come out strong."

Earlier this month, Lee did have four matches against female opponents, when she won the girls' CCS Championships to become the first four-time champion in section history.

"I didn't realize it when Cadence was winning (CCS) this time, but she won every match every year by pin," Horpel said in amazement. "So not only is she a four-time CCS champion, she's pinned every opponent that she's wrestled at the CCS Championships for four straight years."

As Lee continues to train for her final state championship tournament, she made sure to acknowledge how lucky she was to have a coach like Horpel by her side. He previously was the head wrestling coach at Stanford for 25 years and spent time coaching, among others, Olympic gold medalists Mark and Dave Schultz prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

"Coach Horpel is an amazing wrestler, but I think he's an even better coach," Lee said. "He has so much wisdom. Sometimes I'll think that I've heard so much of him that there isn't possibly anymore information that he could have. But every day he puts out something new and he teaches the whole team something about either wrestling or life that I've never heard before. It's really amazing."

For his part, Horpel had the utmost confidence that Lee would once again excel at the state championships.

"I'm always a little worried something bizarre could happen," Horpel said. "But, barring injury and barring illness, I think she's going to do it again and win another state title."

Joining Lee at the State Meet will be Menlo-Atherton freshman Chelsea Wilson and Palo Alto junior Alexa Austin.

Boys wrestling

Gunn will send eight athletes to the CCS Championships on Friday and Saturday at Independence High in San Jose while Palo Alto sends five and Menlo-Atherton four.

Action begins at 10 a.m. each day, with finals set for Saturday at 7 p.m.

Gunn has two seeded wrestlers in junior Ian Cramer (second at 132) and senior Stephen Martin (No. 2 at 182). Paly has junior James Giaccia (third at 126) while senior Josh Deckelman is an alternate at 152.

Menlo-Atherton comes into the meet having finished fifth at last weekend's PAL Championships. The Bears had three individual champions in senior Anthony Andrighetto (122), senior Austin Wilson (134) and senior James Smith (162), who was named the Outstanding Wrestler in the upper weight divisions.

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