Making history on the mat

Ally de la Cruz wins Kamiak’s first-ever state wrestling title
By David Pan | Feb 23, 2017
Photo by: David Pan Ally de la Cruz celebrates winning her first and Kamiak High School’s first state wrestling championship Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Tacoma Dome. The junior standout pinned Sequim’s Alma Mendoza in the girls 155-pound title match. The state championship is the first-ever for any Kamiak wrestler.

Ally de la Cruz made history at Mat Classic XXIX.

The junior won Kamiak High School’s first-ever state wrestling championship Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Tacoma Dome.

De la Cruz pinned Sequim’s Alma Mendoza at the 3-minute, 35-second mark in the girls 155-pound finals. The pin was de la Cruz’s third in the two-day tournament

“It means to the world to me,” de la Cruz said. “It means everything. It’s what I’ve been working for.”

The victory capped an unforgettable season in which de la Cruz finished 37-0 overall with 29 pins. She is the Knights’ only three-time district and regional champion.

“We’re so pleased with her progress and all of her accomplishments,” Kamiak coach Bryan Stelling said. “She’s got the best season record of any Kamiak wrestler ever. I don’t know where we go from here. We get her another year. How awesome is that?”

In her first-round match on Friday, Feb. 17, de la Cruz pinned Puyallup’s Myah Mullins in 2:45. She followed with a fall over Union’s Stephanie Cuevas at 1:42 in the quarterfinals. The toughest match of the tournament for de la Cruz was in Saturday’s semifinals where she won a 10-4 decision over Wilson’s Kathleen Flanagan.

“It was a very close match,” Stelling said. “She was down by 2 and then she came back to win and win decisively. So that was a great match for her.”

De la Cruz had never faced Mendoza, a two-time state placer, before the finals and was aggressive from the start.

“She just went from move to move very, very efficiently,” Stelling said.

Both de la Cruz and Stelling agree that the major difference this season was her confidence. At last year’s state meet, de la Cruz faced then three-time state champion Desiree Zavala of Grandview in the 145 finals and lost by a fall at 5:01.

After the match, de la Cruz was told that Zavala said that she was the toughest opponent the four-time state champion had ever faced.

“That made me feel good about myself,” de la Cruz said. “I felt like I wrestled really strong against her. Knowing that I did that against a four-time state champion really helped boost the confidence. The confidence is key here. Not having it and being so nervous by the atmosphere is something that takes down a lot of girls.”

Stelling said that de la Cruz still gets nervous before tournaments because she wants to do well.

“But she goes out with much more confidence,” he said. “I think she’s been much better this year in takedowns. … She listens very well. I’m very proud of her and how she’s not just accomplished, but she keeps improving her skills.”

Kamiak’s first state champion was one of five girl wrestlers this season at the school. Teammate Diana Cantini also advanced to state and won one of her three matches. Seven wrestlers are needed to form a separate girls team.

“I just love seeing everything get so much bigger for our school,” de la Cruz said. “I am hoping we can someday get a wrestling team.”

When she started as a freshman, de la Cruz was the only girl wrestling at Kamiak.

“My freshman year I did this alone,’ said de la Cruz, who took third at 140 at the 2015 state meet.

De la Cruz leaned on her parents.

“They’ve always told me that they’re just so proud of me no matter what,” she said. “They try to tell me that so I don’t take the losses hard. But they’ve been there the whole way. They’ve been great, creating history with me. They’ve been new to this, as well as I have. My parents are the ones who have brought me along with this.”

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