LATHROP – Jasmine Ivey’s season was turned upside down in an instant.
Worse yet, her mentor had made the hours-long drive to Lemoore High School, arriving just in time to see her emotional setback in the semifinal round of the CIF State Girls Wrestling Championship.
“That match went so quickly. I got the first takedown and then she rolled over and it was … over,” the Lathrop junior said. “I was like, ‘What just happened?’ ”
She wasn’t the only one stunned.
Lathrop first-year coach Vince Garcia left the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament in Stockton to cheer his star pupil. His greeting: Ivey squirming on her back, desperately trying to avoid a pin.
Lathrop wrestling’s first brush with a state championship was over within minutes – dashed by a first-round fall to Lynbrook’s Anna Naylor.
“Shocked. Emotionally overwhelmed,” Garcia said, summing up the mood in Ivey’s corner. “With me showing up, I think it helped her but it also took her on a rollercoaster of emotions.”
But here’s the thing about Ivey, the 146-pound star who took up wrestling to prove a boy wrong:
The Bulletin’s Girls Wrestler of the Year is most dangerous when wounded.
Ivey finished her run at state with consecutive victories, clinching the Spartans’ first state medal of any kind. She finished third, highest among the area’s large contingent of girls wrestlers.
“I think I should have pushed a little harder,” said Ivey, who has already begun training for her senior season. “It was a good season, but there’s always room for improvement.
“I learned a lot more this year than I did last year.”
Garcia put Ivey’s accomplishment in proper perspective.
In six months of training, dating back to her sophomore season, Ivey has transformed herself from relative unknown to one of the rising stars in California girls wrestling.
She closed her junior campaign with a 26-2 mark against girls, with tournament victories at Pitman, Gregori and Escalon. She was also third at the Sac-Joaquin Section meet.
“She’s put us on the map. No one ever heard of Lathrop wrestling until the mayor (Sonny Dhaliwal) gave her an award,” Garcia said. “She’s doing big things for Lathrop wrestling.
“She likes that kind of pressure. She feeds on it. She wants to be the target. She wants people to come after her. If there is pressure and people looking at her, she’s happy to live up to it.”
Garcia has been the one constant. He took Ivey under his wing as the program’s assistant coach last season and has infused a style many in the Valley Oak League may recognize.
It was his own, and that of his families’ too.
Garcia wrestled at Manteca High in the late 1990s, where his younger brother Benny Garcia would eventually secure a fifth-place medal at the 2004 state championships.
Their father, Vince, wrestled at Tracy High.
The secret to their success has been attitude, and their style has been governed by one premise: If you want it, take it.
Ivey didn’t just earn her place on wrestling’s mantel – she took it.
“Last year she tried to be more athletic, more of a technician. This year, she wrestled our style – very aggressive, very demanding,” Garcia said. “If she wants something, she’ll take it. That’s what took her to the next level.
“We expect Jasmine to take first next year.”
Ivey harbors the same expectations after rebounding with a flurry of victories following her semifinal setback at state.
She closed the state championship by pinning Bret Harte’s Kayla Sadler and outpointing Foothill’s Rachel Butler in overtime in the third-place match.
Ivey followed that performance with a first-place showing at the USA Wrestling State Folkstyle Championship. She went up in weight class, sweeping the 158-pound junior girls division.
“When I lose, it’s more a lesson learned than a defeat,” said Ivey, an Honor Roll student whose extra-curricular activities include cheerleading and JROTC.
“Mistakes help you get better. That’s really pushing me right now. I just think, ‘I know Delete - Merge Up(Naylor’s) working hard, too, but the next time I see her, the person whose hand will be raised will be mine. Not hers.’ ”
To contact James Burns, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.