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Carrington's Jazmyn Ybarra continuing to grow as grappler

Jan. 10—CARRINGTON, N.D. — This season, Carrington High School junior Jazmyn Ybarra has fully dedicated herself to wrestling, and the hard work is paying off.

"I love that you get what you put into it," Ybarra said. "You can't cut corners. It's you versus the other person on the mat, you don't have a team to carry you. It's just the hardest test of grit and strength and heart even. Especially because I come from a Class B town and there's no classes in girls' wrestling so I'm wrestling these girls from Bismarck and Fargo and West Fargo and I can still beat them even though they're Class A."

As of Tuesday, Jan. 8, Ybarra is 25-11, with two top-three finishes, including a first-place finish at the PCN Grizzlies Girls Invitational on Dec. 2, 2023. Out of her 25 wins this season, 15 have come from pinfall.

"She did a lot of offseason training," Cardinals head coach Mark Pazdernik said. "Her grandpa (Bill Holtan) actually practiced with her a lot and she did a lot of offseason competitions, wrestling junior nationals, preseason nationals and she did several camps."

Ybarra said Holtan and the rest of her family has had a huge impact on her decision to first get into the sport last year. Ybarra said she officially joined the Cardinals team in December 2022 but a dislocated elbow on the first day of practice forced her to miss some time.

"My grandpa has always been super into wrestling," Ybarra said. "He was a wrestler and my uncle was a two-time state champion and wrestled in college. So that side of my family on my dad's side has always been into wrestling and I've gone to wrestling tournaments with them. I went with my grandpa to state football to watch our cousin and the whole time he was just pitching it to me, selling it to me, trying to get me to join. I finally let up and said I'd go to a couple practices and it ended up being more than a couple."

While she is the oldest of three siblings, Ybarra said she has gotten her 6-year-old sister into the sport.

"It was really good to see her in a different element (at practice)," Ybarra said. "I think she really liked it because she sees me doing it all the time and I spend a lot of late nights at the wrestling facility. ... She looks similar to how I looked a year ago when I started wrestling."

According to Dakota Grapplers.com, Ybarra is third in the state for three-point nearfalls with nine. She is also third for escapes with 15, first for takedowns with 39 and first for takedown percentage with 35.

Ybarra said her best skill is her work ethic, and her most underrated skills are her ability to execute a double-leg takedown and her positive attitude. Pazdernik said her best skill is coachability.

"When she comes off the mat and she loses some of those close ones, she's very disappointed and upset with herself, so yeah, she is very competitive," Pazdernik said. "You need to have that in wrestling to go on and drive you to win your next match or to fix your mistakes that you made in the match. She's very competitive."

Last season, Ybarra went 2-8 while she was balancing dancing and wrestling. While wrestling is an individualized team sport, Ybarra said some skills that translate from dance to wrestling is being a good teammate, her flexibility and the need to balance playing a sport and being a good student.

"It was a juggle for sure because I would go to two practices a night and I would stay after with my grandpa to work on both," Ybarra said. "It was worth it because I did love dance and I didn't want to quit during the middle of the season and do that to my teammates. But it's been really refreshing to just focus on one and not juggle two and academics."

Since she first started in the sport, Ybarra said she has grown a tremendous amount and is an entirely different wrestler today than she was when she first started. She said she's grown on and off the mat.

"I think she was one match away from making it to state last year," Pazdernik said. "Where this year for her to make it to state, which is top eight in the region. She's just come 100% from where she was last year, so yeah, the growth has been huge with her."

This season, Ybarra has wrestled at the 124-pound weight class and the 130-pound weight class.

"At the 124-pound weight in particular, everyone has beaten everyone so there's not one top dog," Ybarra said. "So, that's kind of hard because everyone's good and there's a lot of girls at 124 pounds because it's a really common weight. At the Rotary for instance, this weekend, the 124-pound bracket was the biggest bracket and it had 40 and that was a struggle because I had like seven matches in two days. I don't struggle too much losing weight, I've been good about my nutrition and I go to extra practices if I have to lose weight."

During the summer of 2023, Ybarra competed against female wrestlers from around the country at the 2023 US Marine Corps USAW 16U Junior National Championships. Despite going 0-2 at the event in the Fargodome, Ybarra said she learned valuable lessons from the experience.

"I loved being able to wrestle even through the summer because I had been continuing to practice and also it created new connections and stuff with all the girls from across the state, all the best girls from across the state," Ybarra said. "So, now at tournaments, I see these girls and we're friends and we talk to each other about wrestling tips and it's just really relatable. Even the camps leading up to junior nationals put on by team North Dakota was really good because it's five days of wrestling the first girls in your state straight. It helps me now this season because I know some of these girls now that I'm wrestling aren't as good as the ones I wrestled from Texas and Oklahoma."

When she looks ahead to the rest of the season, Ybarra said she wants to not get in her head and stay confident in her abilities. Despite only being a junior, Ybarra said she hopes to wrestle in college.