Duo Wrestles their Way to State Championship

Two student athletes have etched their names in Saint Mary’s history this year, leaving opponents in a daze and crowds on their feet. 


Alanna Harwell and Kyle Holtberg have slammed their way to the California State Wrestling Championships. Alanna, a freshman in the 121 weight class, finished in the top 32 and became the first ever girl to advance to state. Kyle, a junior in the 113 weight class, finished in the top 24 and became the third boys’ state qualifier. “California has the largest wrestling participation numbers in the country, but is one of only eight states with just a single division for state championships,” said Coach Randy Holtberg. “Just qualifying for state means you are top 40 of 1,020 varsity wrestlers in your weight class.” 


Alanna and Kyle have been preparing for success since they started their wrestling careers. “I got started from my dad, I started wrestling when I was five-years-old,” said Kyle. “I was born into a wrestling family so it was kinda expected. It’s cool to wrestle against people from all over California, from Nor-cal to So-cal. The competition was a lot better than what I was used to and it was in a big arena in Bakersfield. 

Next year, he hopes to win all his postseason progression tournaments and put in some off season work. 


Alanna mentions that she also got started watching other family members compete in the past. “Being one out of two girls on the team makes you want to stand out more and prove that you can keep up with the rest, no matter the challenge. The losses that you take are more impactful than your wins because they show you what you need to improve on for the future, and I’m going to work harder in the off season. It just made me realize how much more I have to work to compete at that level.”


Coach Randy said both athletes have developed skills to help them in their futures. “Wrestling is an extremely demanding sport, both physically and mentally. We typically have ten to fifteen kids each year who start the season, but ultimately decide that it’s not for them and don’t finish. However, those who stick with it and choose to commit usually walk away with a huge sense of accomplishment. They also develop incredible long-lasting skills such as goal setting, pushing mental and physical boundaries, and overcoming adversity.”


Alanna and Kyle certainly prove work ethic through their personal commitment to the sport. Their match day preparation helps get them pumped. “I’ll turn on some music like rap and do some dynamic warmups to get the blood forming. I’ll listen to what my dad says before the match to prepare myself mentally too,” said Kyle.


Alanna also shared that she prefers to listen to rap music. “Having the boys in the corner calling me ‘She-Hulk’ keeps me motivated. They cheer me on and my coaches believe in me, so that’s also great.”

With fourteen different weight classes and a club team for younger kids, there’s much more to come - and on a level field, at that.


Coach Randy assures that whether your advantage may be speed, length, strength, aggression, or smarts, the coaches work with the athletes to approach competition in a manner that suits their personal strengths.

“We are blessed to have a cohesive team that was there throughout the entire postseason run. We look forward to seeing what these two, and the rest of the team, can do next season.” 


Anyone interested should come to an open room practice to meet the coaches and watch to see if it may be a fit.