Kent-Meridian freshman Ofa He Lotu Tuifua, left, clashes with Mount Rainier’s Giuliana Pepe for the 190-pound championship at Mat Classic XXX on Saturday. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Kent-Meridian freshman Ofa He Lotu Tuifua, left, clashes with Mount Rainier’s Giuliana Pepe for the 190-pound championship at Mat Classic XXX on Saturday. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

Girl power

Royals freshman makes history; Perez pins down title for Conks

Ofa He Lotu Tuifua made school history, Sabrina Perez added to it.

Both wrestlers came up golden with titles at Mat Classic XXX in the Tacoma Dome on Saturday.

He Lotu Tuifua, a Kent-Meridian freshman in only her third year of organized wrestling, pinned Mount Rainier’s Giuliana Pepe in 2 minutes, 45 seconds to capture the 190-pound championship and become the first Royal to wear a state girls wrestling crown.

At Meridian Middle School, He Lotu Tuifua was a two-time Kent-Tahoma League champion, wrestling against boys. The K-T League had never had a girl champion until He Lotu Tuifua prevailed in both the seventh and eighth grade.

“For me, as a freshman, it’s a big accomplishment,” said He Lotu Tuifua, who pinned all four challengers over the weekend to finish the season 31-4. “This means a lot. I’m really happy.”

Added her coach, Jesus Valdez: “She’s a heckuva athlete with a heckuva lot of heart. She’s willing to compete, and she came out on top.”

As did Perez, a Kentwood senior who overcame a serious knee injury that nullified her junior season, fought all the way back to take the 170-pound title, by fall at 2:50 over Highline’s Caylee Collins. Perez finished second in the 155-pound class as sophomore in 2016.

In doing so, Perez became only the fourth Conqueror to win a girls wrestling title since the state tournament officially opened girls bracket eliminations in 2007, when 112-pound Antonia Navejas – the daughter of Perez’s club coach – won the school’s first girls title.

Cassidy Meyers won the program’s third state title in 2012 at 118 pounds. Her sister, Jolene, was the second, winning the 140-pound title in 2009.

“This pays off for all the work I put in,” an emotional Perez said afterward.

Also, Kentwood’s Ivy Kraght (135 pounds) and Alexandria Sanford (140) posted thirds on Saturday.

The Conquerors finished third in the team race.

For Kent-Meridian, Sophia Leer was eighth at 135.

Elsewhere

Kentridge junior Will Sirbu enjoyed the ride in his first try at wrestling.

Sirbu, a league and regional champion, won his first match and wound up eighth at 106 pounds.

“It was fun, actually,” said Sirbu, who finished the season 35-6. “It’s new experience for me. I’m definitely coming back. I’m becoming a state champion for sure.”

At 152 pounds, Kentridge’s John Shores, a league and regional champion, injured his nose early on, dropped his quarterfinal match and recovered to finish seventh.

For Kentwood, Dominic Kremer (170) was eighth.

Kentwood’s Sabrina Perez, top, takes on Highline’s Caylee Collins for the 170-pound title. RACHEL CIAMPI, Kent Reporter

Kentwood’s Sabrina Perez, top, takes on Highline’s Caylee Collins for the 170-pound title. RACHEL CIAMPI, Kent Reporter

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