Menlo-Atherton High senior Chelsea Wilson is a hero, a role model and an inspiration without ever meaning to be any of those things. As girls wrestling continues to grow, particularly at M-A, she'll continue to be an important figure.
Saturday's "Bear Bash," the first girls-only high school wrestling invitational in the area, is part of her legacy.
Folashade Akinola/M-A Athletics
The Bear Bash Wrestling Meet brings together 120 wrestlers from around the state, including places like Ukiah and Upper Lake, for a full day of competition that begins at 9 a.m. in Menlo-Atherton's main gym. Tickets, available at the day, are $5 for adults, $3 for students.
"We saw all these great tournaments filled with coed teams," M-A coach Phil Hoang said. "It showed the tournaments did not have the capacity and the girls were getting maybe one or two matches. I asked how we could make things better for the new group of girls entering the sport."
The answer was a dedicated girls tournament.
After a year of competing alone, Wilson was joined by 15 others, mostly freshmen. Menlo-Atherton finished fourth in the Central Coast Section and 11th in state as a first-year program. Wilson won the CCS title in her division and placed third in the state meet. She compiled an overall 24-2 record.
"She's an anomaly," Hoang said. "She's very talented, yet humble, timid and quiet. She never sees herself as the best. She just wants to improve. She's the least aggressor I know. There's no rage when she gets on the mat. She just likes to dominate."
The Bears had two other PAL champions and state qualifiers in Folashade Akinola and Abby Erickson. Both are now sophomores.
Akinola won her division of the CCS and placed seventh in state in compiling a 25-8 record. Erickson was third in the CCS and went 1-2 at the state meet.
Sophomores Lauren McDonnell, the team captain, Angie Bautista, Evelyn Calhoun, Paola Ramirez, Lauren Fuller and others return with a year of experience and are big reasons why Menlo-Atherton is ranked first in the CCS by The California Wrestler.
"It's a chance to get a ton of matches in and show we'll be a challenge," said McDonnell, who originally intended to play soccer at M-A. "I watched a demo of what wrestling is like and thought it could be cool," McDonnell said. "Now I don't want to go back to soccer."
Girls have been wrestling for a few years and Palo Alto's Sarah Aguilar, Aishah Maas and Masako Perez have also enjoyed success, as have Gunn's Ruby Robinson, Natalie Jue, Emily Milner and Julie Laws.
The tournament is a chance for M-A to showcase its progress.