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Posted on Feb 12, 2015

Stephens nabs district title

It appears Zahlee Stephens has finally found her mojo and it led to a 120-pound district title this past weekend. But she needed a little help to find her way.

What the senior lacked in the first part of the season was confidence in herself. That became a problem when she was trying to win matches. Stephens was losing matches she shouldn’t. While her coaches were preparing her with the physical tools to succeed, she just couldn’t grasp how good of a wrestler she was.
Her coach and father, Troy Stephens, was a three-time state placer taking 2nd, 5th and 6th place during his time as a Jackrabbit. He has shown her what to do in a match to win and he even tried to build up her confidence. But the two still had the father-daughter dynamic. So not all his advice translated.
Enter Manuel Ybarra, the same coach who guided the Jacks for over two decades and was Troy’s coach. Ybarra, who still volunteers, noticed how good Zahlee was during practice and did not understand why she was losing. So he took her aside and got her to understood the mental aspect of wrestling.
“Coach Manuel had a talk with me about my mind,” Zahlee said. “He didn’t know how I lost so many matches, because he said I should dominate. It was intense.”
The talk led to her first district title. She heads into the weekend’s regional tournament as a top-seed. She entered last weekend’s District 5/6 Girls Wrestling Championships as a fourth seed at 120 pounds. She also owns a 19-9 overall record.
“I’m just not nervous anymore,” Zahlee said. “I used to be super scared to lose.”
She coupled her newfound confidence with a modified wrestling style. Over the past several weeks, her dad has encouraged her to be more calculated. She was more aggressive in the beginning of the season, but it got her in trouble on numerous occasions.
“At the beginning of the season she was more wild – taking bad shots,” said Troy. She has been smarter, more patient.”
That strategy helped her win all four of her matches. She opened the tournament with a third-period fall against Sunnyside’s Samantha Zambrano and she followed that with a 9-0 win over Alma Corona of Connell. After choosing the top position in the second round, she scored seven of her points, all by nearfall.
“She’s more of a turner,” said Troy. “She’s better at turning people than getting out.”
In the semifinals Zahlee defeated top-seeded Daisy Chavez of Sunnyside, 4-2
The last time the two faced each other Chavez won 4-0. Zahlee came in with a game plan to use her aggressive style against her.
“She likes to take shots,” Zahlee said. “She gives a lot of pressure.”
Zahlee picked up the first points, a takedown in the first round and added a second takedown in the third period for the win.
“After that I tried to wrestle smart,” she said.
Zahlee defeated Jennifer Cano of Pasco in the finals by a score of 7-4. She had lost to Cano in the beginning of the season after giving up mat points late in the third round. This time she scored first and held on for the title.
“It’s unbelievable,” Zahlee said. “But I’ve been working real hard. It’s an accomplishment and a step toward my goal.”


Rowell takes 2nd
Kateri Rowell (18-10) grabbed second place after three lopsided wins propelled her into the championship match at 110 pounds.
The junior opened with a first-period pin over Alicia Cervantes of Omak and followed that with a second-period pin against Iyalhye Barraza of Othello. It was the first time she had faced Barraza.
“I like wrestling people I’ve never wrestled. I am more confident, because they don’t know my moves,” Rowell said.
She advanced to face Olyvia Smith of Zillah and won by technical decision 15-0.
“Score, score, score,” she said. “I’ve been scoring a lot.”
In the finals, she lost to two-time state champion Marizza Birrueta of Grandview by a second-period pin.
120-Stephens p. Zambrano (Sunny) 4:25; Stephens d. Corona (Connell) 9-0; Stephens d. Chavez (Sunny) 4-2; Stephens d. Cano (Pasco) 7-4.
110-Rowell p. Cervantes (Omak) 1:09; Rowell p. Barraza (Othello); Rowell tf. Smith (Zillah), 15-0; Birrueta (Gview)p. Rowell, 3:56.
125-Torres (Chia) p. Westra :37; Evans (top) tf. Westra, 15-0.

– By Kurtis J. Wood/

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