CIF Wrestling Champion Berlyn Davis of San Clemente High School. Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

San Clemente wrestler always ready for the next challenge

By Lou Ponsi

Berlyn Davis started competing in the martial art of jiu-jitsu at age 7, and since then, the San Clemente High senior has taken home championship trophies from some of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments — including two American National IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship titles.

As a sophomore at San Clemente High, Davis decided to give wrestling a try, figuring the sport would help improve her skills in jiu-jitsu.

(Jiu-jitsu) was my main focus,” Davis said. “It wasn’t to be, oh, I want to be good at wrestling. It was, oh, do it for my jiu-jitsu.”

Wrestling did, indeed, help her improve as a martial artist, but as it turns out, Davis is pretty good at wrestling too.

For the second year in a row, Davis, a three-time state qualifier, finished third against California’s best high school wrestlers at the CIF State Wrestling Championships held February 22 to 24 at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield. Davis defeated Selma’s Adelaida Fernandez, 15-0, in the third-place match.

On her road to the state tournament, Davis swept through the 145-pound weight class with four first-period pins in her division to claim a second consecutive CIF-SS Masters title, the only two in the history of the San Clemente’s girls wrestling program.

Wrestling Champion Berlyn Davis of San Clemente High, center, with Assistant Coach Cesar Dash, left, and Head Coach A.J. Jenkins.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

San Clemente girls wrestling coach A.J. Jenkins, herself a former mixed martial arts (MMA) professional, has been watching Davis compete for several years. As a former jiu-jitsu referee, Jenkins saw Davis compete five years ago in featured bouts on adult cards and said Davis is a “super unique competitor.”

“As a referee, you get to see pretty close up,” said Jenkins, who has been the wrestling coach at San Clemente for the past two years along with her husband, Cesar Dash. “A lot of coaches noticed her as a prospect back then.”

Given the Tritons’ past success, Dash said he and his wife put some pressure on themselves to win right away and keep that success going. But since Davis had already been at San Clemente for a year when the coaching team arrived, the transition was easier, Dash said.

“With this sport, so many people come out late or so many people come in as freshmen,” Dash said. “And (having Davis) I think that really opened a lot of the girls’ eyes knowing that they can be successful.”

Davis said the motivating factors that drew her to the sport as a child are the same today as they were then.

“I like the competition,” Davis said. “And there’s always room to grow. You never have anything perfect. There is always another challenge or another person to go against, and you’re always learning new things. You never know every move or every situation you’re in.”

CIF Wrestling Champion Berlyn Davis of San Clemente High School.
Photo by Steven Georges/CUSD Insider

Like many who compete in combat sports, Davis likes the individual nature of doing battle one-on-one against your opponent.

“It’s all on me,” she said. “I have to do my part to win, rather than relying on other people.”

Davis recently spent time training in one of the top dojos in Thailand, and while she was there she added the martial art of Muay Thai to her arsenal.

“I like the training out there,” she said. “It was like 90 degrees but it was nice. I enjoy training in the heat.”

Jiu-jitsu has served her well outside the ring as well, particularly when facing adversity.

“I’m always working for something,” she said. “And it pushes me to not be down on myself a lot.”

Jiu-jitsu is also a great equalizer, Davis said, and a reminder that there is always more to learn.

“I have more to work on” she said. “I’m not done yet.”

Berlyn Davis displaying hardware she picked up for winning the Goddess of Olympia wrestling tournament in 2023. Davis was named Tournament MVP and received an award for the fastest pin.
Photo provided by Berlyn Davis
Berlyn Davis stands on the medal platform after finishing in third place at the CIF State Wrestling Championships at Mechanics Bank Arena in Fresno in February 2024.
Photo provided by Berlyn Davis

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