Espinoza seventh at girls state meet; Kuka bows out first day
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By Natalie Gray  March 1, 2013 12:00 am

Rancho Cotate senior Leilani Kuka saw her high school wrestling career end on the first day of the California Interscholastic Federation State Girls Wrestling Invitational on Feb. 23, but freshman teammate Vickie Espinoza’s future on the mat appears bright.

Kuka, who had won the North Coast Section 154-pound title, suffered a dislocated shoulder during preparations for the state tournament and was not at her best. Although her shoulder was hurting, it would have been more painful for her had she not competed at all.

“I would have been very disappointed if I missed state,” Kuka said in a telephone interview. “It was very intimidating and overwhelming. The girls are a lot tougher and stronger (than typical school competitions), but I was really excited to be there.  I have no regrets about going.”

Also, she got to bond with Espinoza and her family.

“It was a really great experience to be wrestling at all,” Kuka said. “I love it so much. I love the feel of winning and I love the team like family. It’s all just a really great feeling.”

Besides spending her time wrestling, Kuka also takes part in All-State Cheerleading and is interesting in picking up kickboxing again. She says she is interested in continuing wrestling into college.

For Espinoza, she has three more years to chase the state title. She had a first-round bye and reached the quarterfinals of the 32-girl bracket by pinning Sabrina Valles of Sierra Vista at the 5 minute, 8 second mark of the match.

The quarterfinal match was tight and intense, but Espinoza was on the short end of a 1-0 score against Danielle Pubill of Atherton’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, which knocked her into the consolation bracket.

She won her first consolation bracket match over Katie Craft of Lincoln, 7-6, but lost her next bout to Jennifer Sanderson of Pacifica, 6-2.

She closed out the tournament with a victory over Vallejo’s Jessica Chen.

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