BIG GOALS, BIG TALENT: Deer Valley’s Jessie McCurry plans to add to state wrestling, world jiu jitsu titles

Deer Valley wrestling assistant coach Zach Cortez, and head coach Andy Alejandro, right, flank freshman Jessie McCurry following the US Open earlier this year in Las Vegas. McCurry won the She was the folkstyle and Greco Roman events in her weight class. [Courtesy Andrew Alejandro]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Jessie McCurry just finished her freshman year of high school.

This Deer Valley student has so much to look forward to that she can be forgiven for only taking a few glances back at her state title-winning debut.

McCurry’s next milepost on her list of big goals is in a month, the US Marine Corps/USAW Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D. July 12-19.

“I believe she’s an All-American. And I think she could win the whole thing,” Deer Valley coach Andy Alejando said. “I’ve been expecting, as her coach, a top two finish.”

If so, it would only be the latest major grappling achievement in a career that was not built with waiting in mind. McCurry trains at Cannon Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in north Phoenix with coach Shannon Ritch. She has five years experience, and enough of a resume to assist in coaching at Canon at age 15.

According to Canon’s web site, McCurry is the youngest blue belt that has ever won a World Championship at the age of 13 in the adult woman’s division.

“Jiu jitsu is my love. I will always choose jiu jitsu over wrestling, even though wrestling might give me a career. That’s my thing,” McCurry said.

Through jiu jitsu, she developed a ground and pound style and a goal of applying pressure on her opponents. That made for a natural transition to wrestling when she was in middle school.

This was the first season of girls wrestling as an official AIA sport helped for the end of the season, but McCurry was committed to the sport in the first season of high school anyway.

“Even if they had no girls wrestling, I would have joined. All my life, I’ve wrestled against boys. So I’ve never gotten anything from wrestling girls. I don’t care what gender they are, I want to compete. I always wanted to show up the boys and train as hard as they do,” McCurry said.

She hurt her knee during the season, but still entered the first girls state tournament as the No. 1 seed in the 145-pound bracket and sporting a 25-1 record.

McCurry said she eventually wants to compete in the boys bracket. But this year, Goodyear Millennium sophomore Courtney Cardoza provided a robust challenge, beating McCurry earlier in the season and battling her in the final before losing 4-2.

“If I have a chance to qualify for boys state, I’m going to go for it,” McCurry said. “Once I’m a junior or senior I’m going to try to go for boys state. I feel like I want to challenge myself. Girls are just starting off now and I’ve been doing this for a while. There’s some girls that were excellent. The last match of state, Courtney Cardoza, she was one of the toughest matches I’ve ever had. I appreciate everything she does.”

She was one of the first 10 girls to win a state title in the sport.

“I loved that feeling, of trying to build up something so sincerely. It makes me feel like I’m trying to do something good for women’s wrestling,” McCurry said.

Since, her status has been a beacon for the potential of girls wrestling at the school. Junior Caitlin Harrington was the only other Skyhawk girl to try out the sport.

That should not be the case next year, Alejandro said, based on the interest shown in the team and McCurry’s success during future freshman night.

“They were pretty excited to know we have a state champ. I’m looking forward to next year. I think we might have enough girls to field a complete team,” Alejandro said.

This July will be McCurry’s first foray into the Fargo nationals.She said she’s ready for her toughest wrestling competition yet, despite just now finishing rehab from a torn meniscus.

“The state title is cool and I love it. But I want to be well-known for other things too, like national freestyles. And I want to show girls that if I can do it, they can do it,” McCurry said.

While she still looks forward to her chance to compete in boys tournaments, McCurry said she is focused on winning a second state title next school year.

She also wants to keep expanding her skill set on the mat.

“I’ll be trying to experiment with other moves too. My coach, coach Alejandro, has helped me so much during this year. I would put all my success to him now. He was patient with me. That’s why he’s an amazing coach,” McCurry said.

Her bigger goals remain in her first and favorite combat sport. McCurry remains a purple belt — if only because she cannot be awarded blue belt until age 16.

With one world title under her belt, McCurry has her sights set on the world’s biggest jiu jitsu competition.

“My main goal for jiu jitsu is going to Abu Dhabi, which is the biggest jiu jitsu tournament ever. I couldn’t do it once during wrestling season. Next year, I’m hoping to do that. It would be incredible for a purple belt,” McCurry said. “I compete with adults. And I’ve met so many good people through jiu jitsu.”

Her future in wrestling may be even brighter.Alejandro has coached female wrestlers for two decades, including champions like his daughter and his niece.

“I’ve had girls that were talented. Jessie is very talented. She’s probably the best I’ve coached. The sky’s the limit with her — I’m talking Olympics,” Alejandro said.

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