The T-Ducks wrestlers and teams from all around the country converged on the Allen Event Center March 14-16 to defend school pride at the 2018-19 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Wrestling Championship.
“We had pretty good success with a few of our wrestlers,” Coach Bill Neal said.
As the tournament took over the Allen Event Center, the wrestlers took over the event center floor. Among the talent was the T-Ducks’ own Christina Ellis, who took second place in the 143 lb. weight class.
With a contagious smile, she said, “I am a first-year wrestler and when I started wrestling I didn’t know anything about it, really.” With a small women’s wrestling team at Richland, Ellis often had to practice with the men to perfect her technique.
“The guys were always good about working with her. I would tell them, ‘You learn something better when you teach it,’” Neal said.
Ellis’ teammates had nothing but praise for her.
“She picked me up and she threw me. I was like, ‘wild.’ She takes her job seriously,” Rudy Madrid, a younger teammate, said. Her teammates lauded her work ethic and attitude. She is an army veteran who has returned to college and is being all she can be.
“I was going to make a lot of mistakes. But as I always say, ‘I’m smiling. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose. It’s a great opportunity,’” Ellis said.
What should have been three two-minute bouts were over in the first. Ellis was defeated by a more skilled opponent. After the handshakes, Ellis walked off the mat flashing her signature smile.
She has been taking every step of this journey as a learning experience and taking time to talk with teammates and share with them.
“I ask her something. She knows what she’s saying and she, like, gives me really good advice,” Angela Buenrostro, another T-Duck teammate, said.
Ellis said of wrestling, “It’s given me a lot of focus in and out of school, and out of life, and also given me an outlet. A creative outlet.”
“We do our best. I forgot to tell you. I got second in the nation, All-American, All-Academic,” Ellis said.
Joining Ellis on the podium to represent Richland, with medals around their necks and certificates in hand, were Jessica Carbajal, in the 155 lb. weight class, who took third place. In the 235 lb. weight class, Buenrostro and Keana Pass brought home a fourth place.
Jonathan Carranza was, according to Neal, “One of our guys who got to be in what was called a Blood Round. One more match. If he would have won, he would have been an All American.