El Molino junior Hannah Ricioli etched her name in the sports history books at the prestigious California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships on Feb. 27-29, becoming the first Lions wrestler to earn a second place medal.
Held at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield, the three-day pressure cooker featured boys and girls tournaments running simultaneously, with the finals for both contested before a packed house on Saturday.
Just a week removed from capturing the 150-pound North Coast Section title, Ricioli entered the state tourney with an overall season record of 32-6.
“She was unseeded in the state tournament due to a couple of early season losses to other seeded wrestlers,” El Mo coach Ron Wright said. “She was not worried about being unseeded, and she got drawn into the bracket on the opposite side from the No. 1 seed, which is what we wanted.”
Ricioli began her journey through the 150-pound weight class with a pin in 54 seconds in the opening match, setting her up with a second-round clash with No. 3 seeded Maddie Knopka from La Costa Canyon High School. Ricioli led 5-0 in the third period when she secured an arm bar with a half nelson to score a pin at the 5:24 mark.
The El Molino junior faced the No. 6 seed, Mariyah Cassados in Friday’s quarterfinal match, an opponent that had beaten her earlier in the season. Ricioli was not to be denied in this one, breaking a 2-2 tie in the third period with an escape to record an exciting 3-2 win.
Ricioli squared off with the No. 2 seed, Cassandra Bettencourt, the San Diego Section Champion, in Saturday’s semifinals. It was no contest, with Ricioli racing to a 12-2 lead before scoring a pin at 4:41 of the second round.
“Hannah was more prepared for this match and more focused than I’ve ever seen her,” Wright noted. “She knew she was going to win.”
The victory propelled Ricioli into the finals on Saturday afternoon against No. 1 seeded defending 140-pound state champion Lily Freitas.
The magic would run out for Ricioli, as Freitas took a 4-0 lead into the second period, ending it with a pin at the 3:24 mark to capture the state title.