As the referee raised Adriana Orozco’s arm in triumph—signaling the second year in a row the Gilroy High senior had won a Central Coast Section championship—Orozco had a torrent of emotions. At that point, Orozco was already welling up with tears, and moments later, they flowed down her face as she hugged Mustangs coach Marty Serrano.
It was a joyous moment for Orozco, who defeated Wilcox High’s Jezebel Garcia 2-1 in the 160-pound title match.
“I felt a lot of emotions hitting me at the same time,” she said. “I realized it was the last time I was going to be able to compete in CCS, the last time I was going to be with the team. It was a very different feeling than last year. Last year, it was exciting and something new winning CCS for the first time. This time, it’s hard to explain how I feel. Just knowing it was my last time made it really special.”
Orozco, who improved to 27-1 on the season, advances to the CIF State Championships in Visalia a week from Friday. She’ll be joined by teammate and two-sport extraordinaire Kelly Nebesnick, who lost a close match to Watsonville High’s Gianna Mosqueda 6-4 in the 143-pound championship match.
“Losing in the CCS finals fires me up for state,” said Nebesnick, who also plays on the Gilroy High soccer team and three times a week goes back to back with soccer and wrestling practices. “This was my ultimate goal—to go to state—so I’m excited for this. With soccer, it’s a great feeling accomplishing things as a team. With wrestling, there is more of a feeling of self accomplishment since you’re the only one out there.”
Gilroy finished third in the team standings, with 126 points. The Mustangs also received strong performances from Milca Chacon, who finished fourth in the 106-pound division, and Dafne Hernandez, who took fifth in the 137-pound weight class. Orozco and Nebesnick happen to be training partners in the wrestling room, and they’ve sharpened each other and made each other better.
Orozco prevailed in a white-knuckle affair in the title match, recording a two-point reversal—her only points of the match—in the first 20 seconds of the third period before utilizing great defense the rest of the way.
“It was on my mind to not get called for stalling,” she said.
Orozco said she had somewhat of an out of body experience during the match, as she produced moves before she was even thinking it. It turns out all of the drills Orozco has done in practice plays out in the matches, almost automatic by nature.
“I turned her and didn’t even know what happened,” she said. “My body knew what to do before my mind knew what to do.”
Orozco and Nebesnick credited Mustangs coach Marty Serrano for being a supportive coach who doesn’t have to yell to make his point and give constructive criticism.
“I’ll look at him during a match and know what he’s telling me without him saying a word,” Orozco said.
“We have that relationship where I’ll look at her, and she knows what to do,” Serrano said.
Orozco was wrestling against Garcia for the third time this season, having beaten Garcia the previous two times by decision, 7-1 and 7-3.
“Going into the match knowing Jezebel was bigger than me, I knew I had to wrestle smart and wait for my shots,” she said.
Nebesnick is in just her second full season of wrestling, having taken up the sport as a freshman while also enjoying a small stint in middle school. Nebesnick said the key to her successful tournament run had nothing to do with factors on the mat. Rather, it was the things she had to take care of off the mat that was paramount.
“I had to make sure I was rested for the tournament and ate a lot after the weigh-ins,” she said. “It’s great to see how much I’ve improved since last year. As a freshman, I was mainly relying on strength and basic skills, but this year I’m actually able to do moves and score off them.”
Nebesnick manages to play two sports in the same season. Even though soccer might be Nebesnick’s favorite sport and the one she grew up playing, she has made a rapid ascent in wrestling. Nebesnick comes from an athletic family, as her two older sisters, Megan and Katelyn, were standouts at Gilroy High in wrestling and soccer, respectively.
Megan is a two-time CCS wrestling champion, while Katelyn earned NCAA All-American honors while playing soccer at Cal State Stanislaus. Incidentally, Orozco took up wrestling in her freshman year to avoid playing soccer. Orozco smiled as she recalled how her mom wanted her to play soccer, and the concern she had when Orozco began wrestling.
However, the only people who had to be concerned were Orozco’s opponents, as she has dominated most of her competition. Orozco is a role model to her younger sister, Amarainie, who has attended some of Orozco’s practices. Last year, Orozco took fifth in the CIF State Championships in the 150-pound division. Instead of cutting weight, Serrano had Orozco stay up in her more natural weight so she could get stronger as the season has gone along.