The Albany High School girls wrestling team was small in numbers, but big in talent this season.

The Cougars proved their talent and toughness on Feb. 28 and March 1 at the California Interscholastic Federation state championships at the Visalia Convention Center.

With just four of Albany's eight wrestlers qualifying for the tournament, the Cougars fought off many larger squads to win the team title with 94 points. It is the first state championship team title in school history for any sport, said Cougars coach Jason Griffin.

"My girls really wrestled well. That's just what it came down to. They rose to the occasion," Griffin said.

The Cougars were led by Chanel Chawalit and Erica Sotelo, who won individual state championships in their divisions.

Chawalit, the defending state champion at 126 points, pinned her way to a second consecutive title. She was 5-0 with five pins in the tournament, including one at 4 minutes, 54 seconds in the championship match against Alyssa Gonzalez of Benicia. Chawalit, a senior, finished the season with a 38-1 record and 35 pins.

Sotelo, the No. 4 seed in the 131-pound division, upset No. 1 seed Monica Samaniego of Miller-Fontana 5-3 in triple overtime before defeating No. 3 seed Erika Mihalca of Casa Grande 7-0 in the championship match. Sotelo, a junior, was 5-0 with two pins in the tournament and finished the season with a 39-4 record and 33 pins.

Both junior Nallely Patino and sophomore Eva Piroth medaled in their respective divisions.


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Patino reached the 150-pound division semifinals and was leading the match before being pinned by Brenda Perez of Santa Ana at 3:05. Patino won her third-place match 8-3 over Ophelia Lara of Gahr-Cerritos and finished the season with a 32-6 record and 26 pins.

Piroth placed sixth in the 116-pound division. She had a 4-3 record in the tournament and finished the season with a 36-6 record and 31 pins.

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