These 34 girls are the future of the sport of wrestling. Collectively, they make the Oregon Girls National Wrestling Team. And they mean business.
“I love wrestling because it pushes you mentally and physically,” said 18-year-old wrestler Kyleigh Lopez. And it’s just tougher than other sports. I just love the challenge.”
Lopez, along with her 33 newly found teammates, have a big challenge ahead. The Oregon Girls National Wrestling squad will travel to Fargo, ND this weekend to compete in the USA Wrestling National Championship. They’ve been training from sunrise to sunset for the past week with some of the most highly qualified coaches in the state.
“We’ve got seven female coaches on the coaching staff that have wrestled at the collegiate level or higher. So for the girls to have that opportunity, you can’t have a better experience being an Oregon wrestler. This is the place to be,” said Oregon national head coach Natasha Umemoto.
Umemoto has the most experience within the sport. Not only is she the head coach of the national team, she’s also a former national champion wrestler from this very tournament in Fargo. And the love for the sport kindled 28 years ago.
“First it started out with my dad as a wrestling coach. And I went to practice with him. You know, little girl and her daddy,” said Umemoto. “But it has taught me everything you need to be successful in life. It’s addicting. You work hard and you reap the rewards.”
Umemoto wants to see the girls’ hard work pay off in Fargo.
“It would be a culmination of all the hard work they’ve put in. I’ve watched them develop since November,” said Umemoto. “And I remember what it was like standing on top of that podium winning that match. And it’s even more as a coach watching them experience something you’ve gotten to experience as well. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.”
The girls hope they can have the same success this weekend as their coach once did.
“It would mean a lot. It’s like the biggest national tournament in the United States so it would mean a lot, said 14-year-old wrestler Destiny Rodriguez.
“Well in college I want to see if I can win nationals there and then also see if I can make the Olympic team for 2020,” said Lopez. “And I think if I were to win this tournament it would be more of a confidence booster just knowing I could do it.”
The Oregon Girls national Wrestling Team just finished practice here at Elmira High School. They will be on their way to Fargo for the USA National Championship, which starts Saturday and continues through next week.