Marilena Zuniga: The Foundation of Topeka High Wrestling


Addison Vest

Marilena Zuniga(140 lbs) faces off against Shawnee Mission North opponent at Junction city wrestling meet

On December 3, the Topeka High’s girls’ wrestling team captain Marilena Zuniga started her final season with a bang, taking first place in the girl’s 140 lb division at the Emporia Invitational, and has placed in all of the meets that the team has gone to since.

Her coach, Roger Laubengayer-Mena, said, “Marilena is Topeka High Wrestling. She’s been here the longest and has the most wins. She’s the face of our program.”

Zuniga started wrestling as a freshman after her older brother, who was also on the high school’s wrestling team, encouraged her to try it. Girls’ wrestling for Topeka High became a recognized sport by the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) when she joined the team during her freshman year. Zuniga is one of the founding members of the girls’ wrestling team.
During her first two years of wrestling, Zuniga experienced difficulties and setbacks. THS was unable to compete during her sophomore year – the only district in the league with those Covid restrictions – but she persisted in working hard and developing herself.

“My main goal is just to qualify for state again. Last year, I’d say I kind of accomplished a lot during wrestling. It was my comeback season, and I kind of already accomplished the goal I wanted,” Zuniga said.

Zuniga was the first female wrestler in Topeka High history to become a qualifier for the state competition during her junior year, where she took sixth place.

Through her dedication and accomplishments, Zuniga has established a strong foundation for the school’s girls’ wrestling. She has also emerged as a leader and a positive role model for her team as a whole.

“Marilena is just relentless. I think that’s the best word. relentless and non-stop. Sick, tired, she doesn’t quit, even that year that we didn’t get to wrestle because of COVID, she was here every single day working out like just no days off,” Mena said.

Zuniga not only shows her relentlessness in wrestling but also in her involvement in school and her community. She is also a member of the track and cross-country teams, Mu Alpha Theta, the math honor society, and volunteers at the Trojan Cup at lunch. She was even crowned homecoming queen this year. Additionally, she is part of the Our Lady of Guadalupe fiesta dance group, which her family runs. Despite her busy schedule, Marilena finds balance in her life and still makes time for herself.

Zuniga said that she doesn’t necessarily have a strict routine but rather goes with the flow and adjusts to her schedule. She also prioritizes her mental health and seeks support from her friends and family when needed. When she has more free time in the summer, Marilena likes to catch up on things she doesn’t usually have time for, like binging TV shows or spending time with friends.

“I say my advice is, just try to keep having a positive mindset if it really gets tough and maybe take a break. I wouldn’t really advise quitting.”

After this season of wrestling and after she graduates, Marilena plans to pursue her passions in wrestling and track and pursue a college education. She is excited to see what the future holds and is confident that her dedication and hard work will help her succeed in whatever she sets her sights on. But until then, you can cheer Zuniga on at the Varsity League meet at Junction city on February 2 at 9 am.
As for the wrestling team, Zuniga wants to keep more girls coming in the upcoming years.
“I really hope the team, especially the women’s program gets bigger because it is still somewhat new. But our women’s program is bigger than it was when it first started, so I’m pretty proud of how far it’s come.”