Menlo-Atherton senior Alexia Bensoussan became Menlo-Atherton’s third girls state wrestling champion when she beat Los Gatos’ Veloria Pannell, 5-2, in the final round of the 131 bracket Saturday at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield.
Palo Alto senior Ella Jauregui, unranked in the nation, fell to Gilroy’s Jennifer Soto, 2-1, in the championship round at 126, becoming Paly’s highest girls finisher with her performance over the weekend. Soto is the nation's No. 2 ranked wrestler.
Sara Aguilar, who helped coach Bensoussan, placed fourth in the 2017 state championship.
Bensoussan joins Chelsea Wilson (2017) and Fola Akinola (2019) as M-A champions. She’s also the seventh M-A wrestler to earn a medal, helping Menlo-Atherton finish seventh overall.
M-A’s Kiely Tabaldo recorded her second career medal, losing in the third-place match. She had to battle through the consolation rounds to earn a spot in the third-place match, earning a 4-0 decision and a 3-1 decision in the consolation semifinals.
Bensoussan recorded a technical fall in the semifinals while Jauregui recorded a pin.
Jauregui recorded a 10-8 win in sudden victory over Katie Gomez, ranked first in the nation, in the quarterfinals.
On the boys side, St. Francis Bryce Luna fell in the third-place match at 120, 6-1 in an ultimate tiebreaker, and Palo Alto’s Cade Creighton recorded a fifth-place finish at 182, pinning Yucaipa’s Diego Costa in 30 seconds.
Luna was undefeated entering the semifinal round, where he was pinned by Temecula Valley’s Ethan Perryman in 5:07. He came back to beat Buchanan’s Cisco Cabrera, 5-3, in sudden victory.
Luna won his quarterfinal match, 5-0, over Calvary Chapel’s Allan Hendricks after edging Poway’s Billy Townson 1-0 in the Round of 16.
Creighton lost in the quarterfinal round and then recovered to beat St. John Bosco’s Mark Ayala, 3-2, to qualify for the fifth-place match.
Creighton also needed to beat Los Gatos Sergiy Nyzhnyk, 7-0, in the Round of 16, a rematch of the Central Coast Section championship bout.
St. Francis Ryan Luna reached the consolation round of eight at 132, pinning Portola’s Ethan Qureshi in 1:52 before losing.
St. Francis Matthew Luna reached the Round of 16 at 138. Palo Alto’s Max Felter pinned Corning’s Connor Hernandez in 2:09 in the consolation round of 16 before falling to Temecula Valley’s Matt York, 5-3. Lancer Diego Barajas lost in the consolation round.
Alexis Bensoussan's journey to state champion, written by a former wrestling coach:
"Coached by Melanie Cordero, (Palo Alto grad) Sara Aguilar, and Royal Tabaldo, Bensoussan navigated a series of opponents with control and poise. Although she had a dominant 2021-2022 season, the shut down of key tournaments made it challenging to properly seed her and the CIF pairing committee paired her as the No. 6 of the weight class.
"The lower seeding can shake an athlete's confidence, but Alexia was unperturbed. In Round 1, she pinned Marisa Rush (Sierra) in 49 seconds, pinned Kyla Pattillo (Mira Mesa) in 2 minutes and 25 seconds, and pinned Madeline Santana (Cajon) the No. 3 seed in 5 minutes and 33 seconds to advance into the semifinals. She faced Hannah Ripper (Miramonte) the No. 2 seeded wrestler and a jiujiteiro who has been training since 5 years old. Alexia navigated a series of rolls and takedowns to advance by technical fall 17-2 into the finals.
"By the finals Alexia was collected and calm. She warmed up with teammate Kiely Tabaldo, sat patiently as Head Coach Melanie Cordero braided her hair.
"Her final's opponent was Veloria Pannell who had upset the No. 1 seed Hailey Chapman (No. 9 in the nation) in the first round of the tournament. Alexia wrestled Veloria Pannell in the Central Coast Section semifinals after being forced into an overtime victory, took the lesson to be more present for the brilliant chain wrestling system taught by Head Coach Greg Varela of Los Gatos.
"Alexia scored first in the first 40 seconds with a well timed arm snap while whipping behind Veloria to snap her down for a 2-0 lead. Alexia positioned herself for one of her signature near fall pinning positions and sucked Veloria back for a 5 second count to add 3 points to the lead (5-0), Veloria, a formidable opponent fought hard off her back to evade the pin. With Veloria's knack for racking up reversal and back points Alexia chose to take the wrestling in neutral, giving up 1 point to Veloria for the escape and the wrestlers were back on their feet (5-1).
"In the 2nd period Veloria chose bottom and after holding her down for 15 seconds Alexia took the match to their feet (5-2). The remainder of the 2nd period was a display of defense and counters from both wrestlers resulting in the wrestlers locked in stalemates where even minor mistakes would lead to either one scoring, but Alexia defended and managed her risk wisely.
"In the 3rd period, Coach Cordero and Tabaldo made the tactical decision to stay in neutral and finish the match on their feet rather than to go on bottom for more points. Alexia chose neutral and for the next 2 minutes parried and defended all of Veloria's offense to earn her 2022 State Championship Title.