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Local girls hardly break sweat in section opener
Ripon sophomore Julianna Triplett, right, could meet Vintage’s Heather O’Connor (pictured) again in today’s Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Wrestling Invitational at McNair High. - photo by Bulletin file photo
STOCKTON — It was easy come, easy go for three area grapplers in the first day of the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Wrestling Invitational at McNair High Friday.

Ripon High standout sophomore Julianna Triplett, who is defending last year’s 165-pound title, advanced to Day 2 by just showing up.

Teammate Hailey Owens had a first-round bye and defeated Celine Richard of Lincoln, but she has a tough road ahead in the competitive 114-pound bracket — one of the largest in the tournament.

East Union freshman Sarah Phillips also made it a short trip by pinning Jesse Bethel High’s Nancy Nguyen in 1 minute, 33 seconds to move on to the semifinal round in the 98-pound division.

Phillips controlled the match from the start, scoring a quick takedown and three near falls before finishing off Nguyen.

Phillips is still hampered by a sore right shoulder that she injured during the Big Valley Tournament at Stockton Arena Jan. 8-9. Phillips was the only female competitor out of the 600-plus that entered, and the shoulder bothered her during recent girls-only tournaments.

She placed fifth in both the California Girls Wrestling Invitational in Hanford Jan. 30 and the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Regional Tournament but wrestled at 103 at Nor Cals.

On Friday, the shoulder was hardly an issue.

“I only feel it during my matches, but that’s against really strong opponents,” she said.

Phillips is confident about her chances of becoming the city’s first section title holder today. The section invitational is in its second year of existence. The CIF-sanctioned regional tournament started in 2006 and is working toward hosting its first state invitational in 2011.

The current girls state wrestling invitational is put on by the California Women’s Wrestling Association.

Phillips expects Annabelle Molina (Bethel), whom she has already beaten twice this year, to be her toughest challenge but must first get past Jenae Rivas (Enochs) in the semifinals.

Molina took third at NorCals is ranked fifth in the state by the CWWA.

“She was much better the second time I faced her, but I’m sure she’s going to bring (her best) if I see her again,” Phillips said.

The Ripon girls are also expecting stiffer competition.
Owens cruised in her only live match against Richard, nearly scoring a win by technical fall with a 17-3 before sticking her late.

Up next is Alice Hoover (Bethel), a runner-up finisher at NorCals and the state’s fourth-ranked 114-pounder.

Triplett, ranked fourth in the state, is a part of a small field of five competitors at 165 but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Her first opponent is 14th-ranked freshman Katrina Abueg of Hogan High.

Also featured in the bracket is sixth-ranked Heather O’Connor of Vintage, who got the better of Triplett in a hard-earned 7-5 win in the championship match of the 5th Annual Lady Lancer Tournament at East Union Dec. 30.