Pueblo’s Valenzuela Smith wins title, highlights success of local wrestlers at national folkstyle event

Pueblo’s Elizabeth Valenzuela Smith holds her 16U championship trophy of the 2024 Air Force Special Warfare 16U & Junior Boys and Girls Folkstyle Nationals (David Pastoriza photo)

Pueblo High School freshman Elizabeth Valenzuela Smith won all three of her matches by fall to claim the 106-pound 16U title of the 2024 Air Force Special Warfare 16U & Junior Boys and Girls Folkstyle Nationals at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday.

Valenzuela Smith, representing the Arizona Girls Wrestling Club, defeated Kynlie Keff of Daleville (Ill.) by fall in 1:44 in the championship match.

She holds the distinction of being the first third-generation wrestling champion in Arizona. She won the 107-pound state title last month. Her grandfather Orlando Smith (1974-75) and father Josiah Smith (1998) were also state champions from Pueblo.

Elizabeth Valenzuela Smith participated in the event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa., that honors Air Force Special Warfare (David Pastoriza photo)

Sunnyside’s Iliana Castaneda finished second in the 115-pound Junior Girls competition.

Castaneda, also representing Arizona Girls Wrestling, won her first three matches before losing by a 4-2 decision in the championship match against Julia Kay of Cedar City (Utah).

Sunnyside’s Iliana Castaneda (Arizona Girls Wresting)

Sahuarita boys wrestling, which won a state title last month, was well represented at Cedar Rapids.

Gabriel Gallardo of the Mustang Wrestling Club placed second in the Junior Boys 150-pound competition. Gallardo won his first five matches before losing by fall in 2:00 in the title match against Chase Van Hoven of Stafford, Va.

Danny Guerrero, who wrestles at Sahuarita and is part of the Cyclones Wrestling Club, finished fourth in the Junior Boys 120-pound bracket.

Sahuarita Wrestling graphics

Marana junior wrestler Owen Proper took seventh place in the 16U 132-pound bracket, earning him All-American status.

He was unseeded in a 64-man bracket and found a spot on the podium in his first national tournament.

Marana’s Owen Proper
Pueblo’s Elizabeth Valenzuela Smith honored as the champion (David Pastoriza photo)
USA Wrestling video of Elizabeth Valenzuela Smith’s championship match
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