Wrestler Leah Brown becomes Whitney’s first athlete to win state championship


At the CIF State Championships Feb. 26, Leah Brown wins in the 150 lb. division against Savannah Lewis. Photo by Chris Mora.

In front of 1,500 pairs of eyes, in the spotlight, Leah Brown walks alone onto the wrestling mat, ready to face Savannah Lewis, her opponent at the California state wrestling championship match Feb. 26. However, before spectators are able to get comfortable in their seats, at just 39 seconds, Brown has pinned Lewis and became not only the top 150-pound women’s wrestler in the state, but the school’s first athlete to ever win a state championship. 

“It feels really good,” Brown said. “I put in a lot of work to get to this point and just having it pay off and having a title behind it is really awesome. Being a state champion in California is really one of the biggest things any athlete can do and achieve.”

Brown’s teammate Julia Boboc was among the 1,500 spectators and recalls her feelings of happiness towards Brown’s win.

“Most of the finals matches lasted until the second round or third round, but my [teammates] didn’t even get the chance to fully start recording and she had already pinned her opponent, it was like nothing to her. She made it look incredibly easy,” Boboc said. “I cried my eyes out and I was so happy for her because she worked her butt off this whole season. After our two-hour practices, she would go to the gym and then she’d go to another training practice. It was a well-deserved win.”

As both her father and her coach, Marlon Jefferson has been alongside Brown’s journey as a wrestler since she was in seventh grade and was ecstatic to see his daughter win the state title. 

“As her father, I am on cloud nine. I have cried every day, tears of joy.” Jefferson said.  “As a coach, I am in awe of what Leah has developed into. She is the most dedicated, driven and kind soul that I have ever trained. She will literally help anybody.”

Beginning her wrestling career six years ago, Brown has worked to shape herself as the athlete she has become today. 

“I started wrestling mainly because when I was in seventh grade, my dad was a coach at a different high school and he took a girl to state at her first year in wrestling; she even eventually went out of state to get a scholarship for college,” Brown said. “Not being the best in academics, I wanted to get [into college] through sports, so I started wrestling. Soon enough, I qualified for state my freshman year and made it to Masters as a sophomore.” 

In order to make it to the state championships, one must place top six at the regional level, and then top seven at the Masters. While Brown won last year as well, it wasn’t official; due to COVID-19, the match was not part of a CIF-sanctioned event.“Going to state this year, I felt like I had something to prove because everyone called it ‘fake state’ and told me I wasn’t a real state champion.’ I wanted to show everybody that I’m legit and that I could win this championship.” Brown said.

Brown was also invited to represent USA in Estonia on the 2022 women’s national team. 

“I was supposed to be going to Estonia this year, but it got canceled due to the war that’s going on right now. I am going to the world team trials in May in Texas to hopefully make a world team,” Brown said. I went there last year and although I only won one match, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better physically and mentally, so hopefully I place in the top 3 and qualify for the world team.”

In the fall, Brown will be attending the University of Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky with a full scholarship and majoring in either biology to go into a chiropractic program or exercise science to go into kinesiology.

“The coach, Donnie Stephens, is a very developmental coach. He doesn’t see you for what you’ve done but for what you can do and the potential you have to grow. He tries to work with you for your goal. So many coaches are front-runners.” Brown said. “When I visited, I was automatically treated like family. I connected really fast and I was really happy to be there. I signed the letter of intent when I was there in late August of 2021 and the coach flew here in October to help me sign the actual scholarship.”

Being a senior, Brown has made a lasting impression on her teammates, serving as not only a role model, but as their captain. 

Boboc said, “I try being as positive as her, I try changing my bad ways to the better the way she does it. I just follow her footsteps in a way. When she does a certain move, she’ll break it down into even the littlest step. Even if it’s a tiny little movement, I try to do exactly what she does. She would even help me after school with certain moves, which helps us get better. Schoolwise, she’s a senior with 4.0 and for me, that’s the best example I have from people around me. So I try to up my grades too, so I can get to her level. To me, she’s an incredible person. I feel like to everyone she’s a good example and it doesn’t get any better.”