Scotts Valley High senior Danica Kelley raises her arm in victory after she won the 135-pound weight class title at the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield on Feb. 24. (Chris Mora/special to the Press Banner)

After two straight failed attempts of placing atop the podium at the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships, the third time became a charm for Danica Kelley.  

The Scotts Valley High star senior wrestler turned her dream into a reality following a first place finish in the 135-pound weight class bracket on Saturday night.

Kelley pinned Alex Maday of Whitney High in the first round to capture her first State title and second in the Falcons’ program.

“I’m really grateful to all my coaches and I feel like the whole area contributed to this, all these people that have put in the time and energy and effort into me,” Kelley said. “It feels like a win for them, as well. I’m sharing this State title with all these people that have worked towards it.”

Kelley finished 5-0 with four wins by fall in the three day tournament at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield. She became the second girl in Santa Cruz County to win a CIF State championship since former Scotts Valley wrestling star Domino Parrish won back-to-back state titles in 2014-15. 

Scotts Valley coach Nick Reyes was a wrestler on the Falcons boys’ team and one grade below Parrish when she accomplished that feat.  Reyes feels like a cycle is complete now that Kelley is one of five state champions in the county.

“It’s definitely a full circle moment and something that I definitely will remember forever,” Reyes said. “It’s a great feeling. The atmosphere went crazy when that whole kind of movement happened. [Kelley] was on her back and then immediately flipped it, put [Maday] straight on her back, crowd goes crazy and gets the pin.”

Other past state champions include former San Lorenzo Valley High standout Cody Rodebaugh, who won the 140-pound weight class championship in 2009, while Watsonville High produced a pair of state winners in Gus Paz in 1982 and David Barnes in 1979.

Scotts Valley senior Kayse Martinovsky (140) finished 0-2 and failed to advance to the second day of competition. Reyes said they had high hopes of getting Martinovsky on the podium, but this year’s 140-pound weight class field was loaded with talent from top to bottom.

“[Martinovksy’s] a battler, she’s a warrior,” Reyes said. “We started seeing that gradual incline of success and we’re hoping to get a little bit more of that. But regardless, she’s a three-time state qualifier and not many people can say that.”

In Saturday’s championship bout, Maday took control right away with her signature slide-by move for the takedown and a 2-0 lead just eight seconds into the opening period. She added three more points with a nearfall after rolling Kelley on her right shoulder. 

But in a flash, Kelley broke away to grab Maday around the neck and chin whipped her flat on the mat to pin her with 17 seconds remaining in the first. 

“Luckily I bridged out of the pin, and then from there I reversed it and hit the chin whip,” Kelley said. “At that moment I felt like the tide’s turning, that’s gonna give me the reversal and then the nearfall, which would tie up the score. But then I ended up getting the pin with it. I was pretty excited.”

Reyes noted that Kelley spent time scouting and watching some of Maday’s videos from this season. They got to work in the wrestling room, preparing to defend the slide-by move.

Kelley also hasn’t spent much time on bottom this season and has been dominating opponents by staying on top or in a neutral position. 

“Her being on bottom throughout this tournament alone has kind of got her more accustomed to it, especially with the better wrestlers,” Reyes said. “She stayed calm and I preached constant movement on bottom…I’ve seen a few times where Danica is on her back and is able to bridge, get out and fight. Somehow caught a chin whip on her and finished her off to seal the deal.”

After the match ended, Kelley and the referee noticed that Maday was out cold. Maday received medical attention and was back on her feet to congratulate the new state champion.  

Kelley had a similar situation in the semifinals before she pinned Maci Stemmons of Monte Vista High 59 seconds into the second period. 

Kelley scored two points on a chin whip swing and put Stemmons on her back. After the takedown, Kelley wrapped her arm around Stemmons neck and it appeared that Kelley had her pinned for the win. 

Instead, Stemmons was unconscious and remained on the ground for nearly two minutes before she was able to get back on her feet. The Monte Vista coaching staff challenged the referee’s call of a fall and it was overturned by CIF State officials.

The referee awarded Kelley four points on a nearfall and was ahead 6-0 with 32 seconds left in the opening period.  

Stemmons chose to be on top to begin the second period, but Kelley went in tight and found a way to break out of an arm bar attempt. Seconds later, Kelley was victorious and on her way to the finals. 

The road to a state title began with wins over Kayla Ganac of Los Osos High and Renice Gonzalez of Colony High on Day 1.   

On the second day of action, Kelley went the distance in the quarterfinals for a 5-4 decision win over Braya Cruz of Clovis North High, followed by victory over Stemmons in Saturday’s semifinals.

In terms of career accomplishments, this championship run means quite a bit to Kelley. She’s excited to be following in the footsteps of Parrish and putting Scotts Valley on the map for wrestling.

“It’s all these people that put energy into me and I think that this would definitely be the number one on that list for achievements,” Kelley said.

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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