The Del Norte girls saved their best wrestling of the season for the North Coast Section Championships. The Warriors rolled into their first two-day tournament of the season on Friday in Albany and six of the team’s seven wrestlers survived to compete on day two.
Del Norte managed to bring home a pair of placers led by Danika Scott’s third place finish in the 235 pound weightclass to qualify to move on to the California Interscholastic Federation State Tournament starting this Friday. Del Norte senior Ashley Turner also made the podium, taking eighth place in the 189 pound bracket.
“Overall we looked outstanding. Those girls have never wrestled like that,” said Del Norte girls coach Heath Schaad. “It was a big tournament. There were a lot of really good wrestlers up and down on that weightclass board. It went phenomenally. Honestly I was expecting that Danika would probably make day two and I told the girls if one of any of the others made day two I would probably cry because I would be so excited. Then when we rolled through there and all the sudden we had six wrestlers make day two every single one of them asked me, ‘When did you cry — did you cry?’”
In the end, the Warriors finished in a tie for 17th place out of over 70 schools, finishing with 62 team points. With wrestlers in just half of the brackets at the NCS tournament, Del Norte managed to wrack up team points thanks largely to their ability to wrack up pins throughout the tournament.
“We went on a streak of just pins. On both days we had a total of two matches that were decided by points,” Schaad said. “In every single one of the other matches we pinned them. It shows in the score. How do six kids get 17th place out of 17 teams? Because we pinned almost every one of the kids that we beat.”
The Del Norte girls team has attended a couple large tournaments throughout the season, but the section tournament in Albany was by far the biggest, and the only two-day event for the Warriors all year.
“It was really big, and it was nerve wracking to walk in and see that many people in the stands and that many mats going at once. There were a lot of good people down there — it made me really nervous,” Scott said. “My coaches helped to calm me down. They just kind of talked me through it, told me to breath and calm down and I will be alright.”
Scott settled down quickly and went 4-1 over the course of the two day tournament, with all of her wins coming by fall.
“Danika kept her cool and dominated her matches,” Scott said. “She lost one match to the second place wrestler, but that was a tough match. She didn’t roll over for her, she made the girl work for it. She went into every match with a game plan and she stuck to that game plan.”
After falling in the championship semifinals, Scott bounced back with a quick pin in 19 seconds to secure a trip to the state tournament before wrapping up her day with a pin in 1:33 to take third place overall.
“I went into it with a different mindset than I usually do,” Scott said of her last match of the day. “It was kind of like, ‘I have to win this, or I am going to be really upset with myself.’ So I just went in and gave it my all — more so than usual it felt like.”
At the end of her tournament, Scott said the emotions of her accomplishments finally started to set in.
“If feels amazing,” she said. “I was so happy that I cried after my match. I was so excited. It feels like all my hard work finally paid off.”
As a state qualifier, Scott is the only Warrior still wrestling this season. She will head down to Bakersfield with a few coaches on Wednesday to get ready for her second two-day tournament of the season — the CIF State Championships.
“Honestly I didn’t think I would get this far,” Scott said. “Hopefully I can place, but my goal is to not get knocked out in the first day.”
Senior Ashley Turner also had a strong performance in Albany, finishing the tournament 2-3 overall on her way to an eighth place finish.
“She was pinning kids and just dominating through,” Schaad said. “To make the board she came up against a girl that was exactly the same build as her and they have the exact same style of wrestling. That makes it difficult because every time we try to do something it is easily countered, and it goes the other way as well. Both girls wrestled their butts off, and at any time it could have gone either way.”
Del Norte’s other senior, Hailey Stover, also had a strong day going 3-2 over the course of the two day tournament. Stover ended up falling to a wrestler from Eureka who has had her number all season long, but she gave the 143 pound HDN champion about all that she could handle in her last match at sections.
“Just a week ago when she wrestled that girl in the HDNs she got absolutely manhandled and lost very quickly,” Schaad said. “She stepped out on that mat and lost 16-10, which you don’t see very often. She was happy because she knew that she wrestled better than she had ever wrestled.”
Ashley Turner also wrestled well in the 170 pound bracket. Although she finished 1-2 for the tournament, Schaad said he felt she would have gotten off to a 2-1 start after her first match on day two.
“The match that put her out absolutely shouldn’t have happened the way that it went,” Schaad said. “There were some calls that I questioned, and there were some calls that needed to be made and it just never happened. It cost her the match.”
Both Jenny Schaad (111 pounds) and Claire Tayler (131) finished 2-2 overall.
“Claire hurt her shoulder last week at the HDNs,” Schaad said. “We have been battling that injury all week, but she was able to go down there and make it to day two with pins.”
Emily Ricks also competed well in Albany, but finished 0-2 wrestling at 121 pounds.
“Emily lost her first two matches, but she wrestled really well,” Schaad said. “She has had medical issues all year long and she just keeps fighting through. She almost won her first match, but she just got high and got rolled — it happens, that is wrestling.”
Although Scott still has one more tournament to wrestle at, the rest of the Warriors seasons came to an end over the weekend to wrap up the first ever season for the Del Norte girls wrestling team.
“Personally I think the season went great for us and for them,” Schaad said. “They all came in knowing nothing on day one — it was like when I am coaching the little pee wees and the bantams. It was like that, except with a bunch of sophomores, juniors and seniors. But they picked it up quickly. They have learned more, and faster than anybody I have ever coached. They just picked it up so well and so fast. It was up to them how they wanted to perform, and they did. They were very team oriented — pushing each other and picking each other up all the time.”
Stover and Ashley Turner are the only seniors on the girls squad this season, and Schaad said the wrestlers and coaches are already getting excited about next season.
“I have talked to them all about watching their weight and hitting the weight room,” he said. “We don’t need to get that big, but we need to get strong. All of my girls expect for Hailey, who is going to play softball, are going to come in for our freestyle program. They are going to go wrestled boys down in Humboldt County and some of them are going to go down for the State Freestyle Tournament. They want to keep learning and keep the process going, which is great for us. We have at least a couple new kids for sure coming in next year, and who knows who at the high school is going to want to come out and try this. Now we have this crew that has been there and done that. We are all excited to see what this group is going to do next year.”