By Kyle Wylie
Coordinator of School Support Services, KHSD
It was a frigid Saturday in December and Ridgeview High School was hosting their Born Vicious Wrestling Tournament in which girls from all over Kern County and other parts of California were competing in the nation’s fastest growing sport. For many wrestlers participating in tournaments, the routine is common: rising early in the morning, grabbing a quick bite to eat after weigh ins, listening to music, going through the motions of warm ups, and enjoying the experience with teammates through laughter and the occasional group selfie picture to be posted on social media. However, for one East Bakersfield High School wrestler, socializing and having fun was not part of the agenda for that Saturday.
Cynthia Pelayo of East Bakersfield High School is completely focused as she gets ready for the Born Vicious Tournament at Ridgeview High School.
From the moment she began warming up for the tournament, junior Cynthia Pelayo had a look on her face that the great athletes have each time they compete. There was an intensity and determination that was not matched by any girl at the tournament and with this focus, Pelayo would go undefeated throughout the day. It seemed that Pelayo was wrestling with a larger purpose in mind with every move that she made, in every take down she had against her opponent, and in the intensity that she carried with her everytime she set foot on the mat. The ultimate goal - win it all at state.
Every time she steps on the mat, Pelayo is focused and determined to dominate her opponent.
In her freshman year, Pelayo qualified to move on to the second day of the CIF State Wrestling Tournament, but failed to earn any medals. Last year, in her sophomore year, Pelayo was the only girl from Kern County to place at the state level by finishing in 6th place. Pictures flooded in from the local media with smiles from Pelayo about her finish, but inside, there was emptiness and disappointment. “I set a goal that I didn’t want anything less than 5th place and when I finished in 6th, I felt empty because I didn’t accomplish my goal. I walked away from state last year focused and determined to get back and win it all. First, some things had to change” states Pelayo.
Even though she medaled at state with a 6th place finish as a sophomore and was the only girl from Kern County to do so, Pelayo was not satisfied with her finish.
Pelayo took to the off season with a relentless and almost angry desire to be the best. She worked on her conditioning as she took to the gym with her sister twice a day with a regiment that included cardio, yoga, and weightlifting. (She has a max bench press of 135 pounds and squats 205 pounds) In between trips to the gym, she would be in the “room” (wrestling room) with her sister/coach, Gabriela Pelayo, working on her technique, and practicing on areas of her wrestling in which she struggles all with the goal of trying to perfect her craft. She cut out all junk food and sugary drinks and took to a diet mostly consisting of vegetables and protein. Most days, Pelayo spent about 8 hours training, practicing, eating right, and focusing on wrestling and that state title. She doesn’t have Twitter or Facebook, but she does watch wrestling techniques on YouTube from some of her most-liked wrestlers including her favorite, Helen Maroulis who was the first American woman to win a gold medal in wrestling. “Cynthia is very determined to become better and she has worked extremely hard for it as evident in her training and nutrition. Last year she had some lazy tendencies and this year, there are no excuses,” indicates Gabriella, “She feels that respect has to be earned and she is constantly working to earn that respect.”
Part of Pelayo’s conditioning for the off-season included: weightlifting, yoga, cardio, and perfecting her technique with her sister and coach, Gabriella Pelayo.
This season, her hard work has paid huge dividends. Currently, Pelayo has a 15-0 record wrestling at 131 pounds which is up 5 pounds from last year. She only has three pins this year, but the majority of her wins have been done in dominant fashion. Her victories have come in some of the top girls wrestling tournaments around: Queen of the Valley at Golden Valley High School, Born Vicious at Ridgeview High School, and the Coyote Classic at her home school. “My focus right now is on technique less than pinning my opponent. From the moment I get in the room or on the mat, I am focused on my technique. Technique wins over strength and stamina any day. In the room during practice, I focus on technique and what I am bad at rather than just defeating my partner or trying to pin them because I know it will make me better and prepare me better for state.”
With her intensity and focus at the forefront, Pelayo isn’t merely concerned about her individual goals as she tries to elevate the level of competition and intensity to those close to her. EBHS Wrestling Coach, Freddy Gonzalez Jr. speaks of her leadership, “This year she is the leader in the room and tries to inspire and be the example for her team to be better. She holds all of her teammates accountable for showing up on time to practice and putting in work in the room. She is an excellent role model for all the wrestlers at East and she is sometimes harder on the boys than she is on the girls. The boys have a lot of respect for her.”
“She is focused,” continues Gonzalez, “There is no playing games with her - she is 100% focused.”
Pelayo elevates the performance of her teammates at East - both boys and girls alike.
Not only does Pelayo want to inspire and elevate the performance of her teammates, but she also wants to influence other girls to the sport of wrestling. “My goal is to win state, but a larger goal for me is to influence and inspire girls on the east-side that we too can compete and excel in a male dominated sport,” explains Pelayo, “It’s important that other girls, especially on the east-side, understand that they can achieve anything through hard work and dedication. Wrestling is the perfect sport to learn hard work and perseverance.”
At East Bakersfield High School, the administration, staff, and students are committed to building a culture centered on FAMILY - Focus Attitude Mentorship Integrity Legacy You. For Cynthia Pelayo, her focus is demonstrated through her determination to be successful and the look she has in her eyes every time that she competes. Her attitude exemplifies all the positive qualities that educators expect to see in student behavior from the way she interacts with the others to the 3.2 GPA that she carries in the classroom. Her desire to inspire girls that live on the east side to not only wrestle, but towards achievement shows that her success is not limited to individual gain, but also in the benevolence of mentoring others towards greatness. With her success last year at the CIF State tournament, Pelayo has created a legacy for girls wrestling at East Bakersfield High School and with hopes of a state title this year, her legacy will only be enhanced. “If I don’t get the title this year, I will figure out what I did wrong and work harder to get it done next year. No excuses.” Cynthia Pelayo is the epitome of what it means to belong to the Blade FAMILY. EBHS's Athletic Director, Ken Chapman, perhaps say it best about Cynthia's impact, "Cynthia is a role model for all students on our campus - not just wrestlers or athletes. Everyone knows about the influence and legacy of Cynthia Pelayo."
Cynthia Pelayo is the epitome of Blade FAMILY:
Focus Attitude Mentorship Integrity Legacy You