Gracie Figueroa, Former Selma Wrestler, Found A New Path After A Serious Injury

“You may get hurt and it may be serious…but you will come back and you will come back stronger than ever.”


A devastating injury has led to an unexpected opportunity for Gracie Figueroa, the former standout wrestler from Selma High School. Figueroa, who continued to rack up accolades when she attended Menlo College after high school, experienced a setback when she tore her ACL earlier this year.

The Central Valley native came back home in the summer while recovering from her injury.

“I decided to come back to work on my recovery and just to be close to home for the time being,” she said. “I don’t know what my plan was. It was just pretty much to continue to wrestle, but since I’ve been injured, I had look at other opportunities.”

As she pondered her options, Figueroa received an offer to work as an assistant coach for the new women’s wrestling program at Fresno City College. The 2018 Selma graduate then accepted the offer without hesitation.

“They pretty much reached out to me and I just thought it was a great opportunity to start my first coaching gig,” Figueroa said.

At Selma High School, the star student-athlete won four individual state championships. She also led the girls wrestling program to three straight team championships. Figueroa continued to excel at Menlo College, earning a national championship in her freshman year.

The new Rams assistant coach is now looking forward to sharing the wisdom and knowledge she gained from her vast experience in wrestling.

“I do have a lot of experience on different levels of wrestling. I can just teach them all my experiences and knowledge and just help them grow better,” Figueroa said. “And hopefully if they want to continue and go to bigger universities, I can also help them with that as well.”

Figueroa is one of five girls who has won an individual state championship at Selma High School, according to The Hanford Sentinel. Biri Mendoza won the first girls state title for the school in 2011. Since then, Figueroa, Alleida Martinez, Jerzie Estarda and Arieana Arias have followed up with their own titles.

“I hope one day I can be just as great as Gracie Figueroa and Alleida Martinez,” Arias told The Sentinel after winning a state championship in February.

Figueroa is proud to see the growth of women’s wrestling in the Valley. She says the sport has come a long way since her days at Selma High.

“Back then it was only two, maybe three girls in the Valley that I would ever see wrestle,” the star wrestler said. “Now, it has grown so much. I see so many little girls at certain practices and I love it. I love to see that. And I think just them seeing and hearing about me makes them want to wrestle more and accomplish what I accomplished and I’m just so happy I’m able to contribute that to them.”

While her accomplishments can be inspiring, Figueroa is not here to simply show off her accolades. The more important thing, she says, is to make sure the student-athletes learn from the challenges she faced.

“In wrestling, your body’s not always perfect, your body’s going to wear and tear. It’s a very hard sport that you put your body into,” Figueroa said. “So I would just teach them that you may get hurt and it may be serious like as I had . . . but you will come back and you will come back stronger than ever.”

When facing a serious injury, Figueroa said a wrestler must be motivated more than ever to get back on the mat.

“Once you sit down for a while and you’re away from wrestling, it kind of feeds your hunger,” the Selma legend said. “You want to be greater than before and you just want to get out there and just wrestle because you just don’t want the opportunity to get taken again.”

Figueroa gives credit to the many coaches who have helped her come this far in her career.

“The first one that taught me how to do my ankle pick was Isaac Pumarejo. He’s down in San Diego now,” the star wrestler said. “He really took the time to work with me when I needed that extra time.”

There’s also Joey Areyano, who coached Figueroa at Selma High.

“He was there for me a lot, ups and downs,” Figueroa said. “Coach Joey would always say ‘go out there and beat someone you’re not supposed to beat.'”

The former state champion names many more coaches who have helped her at various levels in her career. That extensive list includes Sam Lopez, Cleo Lane, Pepe Mendoza, Ruben Valencia and Bill Mitchell. These coaches, Figueroa says, have inspired her to always bounce back.

“If you don’t get the results you want, you can always come back and always come back better than ever,” she said. “Just don’t get down on yourself and just know that everyone loves and supports you.”

These are the lessons Figueroa now looks to share with the student-athletes at Fresno City College.

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