Banning wrestler takes particular journey to City Section finals

“I don’t feel pretty.”

It was the best expression of the turmoil Banning High junior Melissa Guerrero-Brown felt again then, at all times encasing herself in a hoodie, by no means wanting within the mirror. She weighed 190 kilos the primary time she walked into the Pilots’ wrestling room as a sophomore. Never wore tights. Always saggy garments.

That lady, popping out of COVID-19, was looking for one thing to seize on to, drawing that hoodie tight. Her mother and father capable of inform one thing was bugging her. But Guerrero-Brown would shut down, her mom Melissa simply remembering her saying that one factor.

“I don’t feel pretty.”

But this lady standing outdoors San Fernando High on Saturday afternoon, eagerly anticipating her subsequent bout within the City Section particular person wrestling championships, spoke with a glint in her eye. Guerrero-Brown had zero idea of what wrestling even was — not to mention touched a mat — that first time she determined to come back into Banning tryouts out of sheer curiosity.

A 12 months later, wrestling has led her down a path of dedication. Weight loss. Self-love. A 12 months later, she’s misplaced 40 kilos, is without doubt one of the most confident youngsters you’ll ever meet, and superior to the City Section women’ finals on Saturday.

Man,” Guerrero-Brown mentioned with a smile, “I feel confident. Before, I was insecure about myself, and honestly I let a lot of people get into my head … I actually feel more confident, and I’m loving myself more.”

“I’m not being ashamed.”

She was first occupied with wrestling, regardless of figuring out nothing in regards to the sport, as a result of she noticed youngsters who seemed and felt match, Guerrero-Brown mentioned. In center college, she was bullied consistently for her weight. A 12 months in the past, she cracked, it was a unique Melissa — only a “little chubby girl.”

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Just just a few phrases of reflection turned her eyes pink, began her sniffling, apologizing for being emotional. The damage nonetheless ran deep. She’d get advised she was too fats to wrestle.

“Getting made fun of,” Guerrero-Brown mentioned, eyes watery. “Getting told I couldn’t do it.”

She did “everything wrong,” Banning coach Jose Puentes mentioned, the primary time she was taught her first takedown. But she got here again the subsequent day, and began practising the strikes she was taught incessantly, shadow-wrestling in her room at house. She’s the one wrestler, Puentes mentioned, who persistently stays after practices and runs across the college’s observe.

One day, she was leaving the home to go work out with a pal and handed by a mirror, Guerrero-Brown remembered. She glanced, and stopped. Amazed.

“Like, ‘Look at you,’” she remembered. “‘You’re doing it.’”

Her garments began to get too large. And it invigorated her. She was doing it, she stored repeating outdoors San Fernando. She was doing it.

The confidence is apparent in her wrestling type, affected person however aggressive, flipping an opponent from El Camino Real time and again Saturday to advance to the City ultimate within the 150-pound weight class. She leapt into Puentes’ arms after the victory, beaming, the hoodie changed by a Pilots uniform.

Puentes sees a little bit of himself in Guerrero-Brown. The second-year coach got here from a household of gang members, he mentioned. Taken “out of the hood.” Wrestling lit one thing in him, and set him on a unique path.

Guerrero-Brown has grown up with 5 siblings, a sixth on the way in which, at one time staying in an house with only one room for the youngsters and one front room. Her household’s moved from place to put, by no means owners, now dwelling in east Wilmington.

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“We live in the ghetto,” mentioned her father, Eduardo.

College was by no means a thought for Guerrero-Brown. Until wrestling. The sport has develop into her ticket out, Puentes mentioned.

“I’d always seen myself being somebody big,” Guerrero-Brown mentioned. “And joining this sport, it helped me a lot, I’m going to be so honest with you … I don’t want to give up. I see myself being somebody.”

She misplaced within the finals Saturday, however nonetheless wept with pleasure over the silver medal, embracing household with a smile. Even if she didn’t win, she felt, she had one other 12 months to work 10 occasions tougher.

“Believe in yourself,” she mentioned, when requested to offer recommendation to different women scuffling with weight. “Don’t let nobody get to you. Don’t listen to nobody … at the end of the day, they’re not in your shoes. You got this.”

Guerrero-Brown’s emotion was simply considered one of lots of of explosions of pleasure in a buzzing San Fernando fitness center Saturday evening, the college internet hosting a marquee occasion full with a large inflatable Tiger tunnel and strobe lights to introduce the finalists.

The first home-crowd swell of the evening got here as San Fernando’s Jay Arana flipped and tackled and gained by fall over Birmingham’s Draven Lukata, the defending City champ within the boys’ 126 division ultimate.

“It was a shock to everybody,” a wired Arana mentioned after the bout.

Birmingham’s Ethan Grubach, in the meantime, shone brightest amongst a Patriots roster that earned probably the most program wins on the evening, pinning his opponent within the boys’ 145 ultimate in a blistering 21 seconds.

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San Pedro’s Jerry Witty, who’s dedicated to Western Colorado for each soccer and wrestling, gained a grueling heavyweight matchup towards El Camino Real’s Berkan Ranbari by a 3-0 resolution.

Nova Gallegos, in the meantime, turned the primary wrestler in Carson program historical past to earn a women’ City Section title, inserting first within the 189 division.