When Precious Hernandez walked off the wrestling mat at the Cypress’ Berry Center, the Donna High School senior didn’t just win the University Interscholastic League’s 2020 State Wrestling Championship, she made history to become the first Rio Grande Valley heavyweight competitor to do so.
A rare experience that will be etched on her mind forever.
“It was really nerve-racking,” Hernandez said. “The superintendent was standing across from me cheering me on. Everyone was cheering me on. I’m just a Hispanic girl from Donna. It has never happened before so everyone was routing for me. I was not going to disappoint them. I was not going to disappoint my community. I wanted to take something back to them and I did it.”
Early on in the championship match, Hernandez was falling behind in points. She eventually took her opponent to the ground and locked up her arms and legs for an impressive pin and victory to bring home the 5A heavyweight state championship gold medal.
“I left it all on the mat,” Hernandez said. “I went as far as I could. I did everything I should have done. When I was declared the winner, they lifted my hand and I did a circle around the mat. The entire arena was clapping. It was crazy. It didn’t hit me until I got my medal. I was like ‘oh my goodness I really did this, wow.’ I was crying and really emotional.”
Superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez (center) and Coaches Raul Cardenas, Marcus Bowen and Amanda Valdez pose with Donna High’s Precious Hernandez.
Hernandez said that she wanted to prove that someone from deep South Texas was not only prepared to compete at the state level but good enough to win. “I feel honored to be able to show kids like me that anything is possible,” Hernandez said.” It’s not about where you’re from or where you started. It’s all about how hard you’re willing to work to get to where you want to be.”
This victory was the culmination of a four-year journey for Hernandez. She recalled how wrestling was not even on her radar when she transitioned from middle school to high school. “I was a dancer in my middle school years,” Hernandez said. “One day in my freshman year PE class, a coach came up to me and told me that he wanted me to join his wrestling team.”
Hernandez showed up after school that day and joined the Bravettes team. However, she was having a hard time connecting to the sport. “I hated it so much at first,” she said.
But, in due time, Hernandez grew to love wresting and four years later, coach Raul Cardenas presented her with the top prize at the state podium. “I felt so honored and so accomplished that all my hard work finally paid off,” Hernandez said. “It wasn’t just me, it was the whole team. I practiced with my teammates, they practiced with me and we got better. We put in a lot of hours with our coaches. It’s just a huge sense of accomplishment.”
This state title could open doors for Hernandez who plans to go to college to pursue a career in physical therapy. For now, she is taking it all in and enjoying the victory.
“I am thankful for the support of my team, my school, and my community. I couldn’t be more honored.”