Yared Calderon had a tough draw in her first ever wrestling match.
Up against Sunnyside, Wash. senior Natalia Toledano, the Canby sophomore made it to the second period before getting pinned.
Toledano then went on to win the War of the Roses tournament at Westview High School in Portland, pinning all four of her opponents.
"My first wrestling match was incredibly scary," recalled Calderon, who went on to win two matches, both by fall, to place sixth in the 235-pound division.
The following weekend, Calderon placed first in the Larry Owings Invitational at Canby.
Wrestling in a two-person 190-235-pound division, Calderon lost the first match by an 11-8 decision to Beaverton junior Maria Reeder, but won the second 6-5.
Calderon then majored Reeder, 14-4, in the deciding third match.
"She beat me the first time and she got really cocky, and then I beat her, so that felt pretty good," Calderon said. "As soon as her coach yelled, 'she's tired, get her,' I kind of got really mad."
Calderon, who also finished second at the Colton Holly Invitation at Wilsonville, is one of eight girls on Canby's wrestling team that will compete at the Girls Special District North tournament on Feb. 7-8 at Century High School in Hillsboro.
She will be joined by Eslie Cobarrabius, Havlyn Ehrich, Bella Flores, Nancy Garcia, Valeria Perez Cabrera, Mairsol Rosiles-Malason and Lexli Lopez.
From the two qualifying tournaments, North and South, the top four girls in each weight class will advance to an eight-girl bracket at the state tournament on Feb. 28-29 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
There are no classifications (6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A/1A) for the girls as there are for the boys.
After hosting an exhibition state tournament for girls since 2005-06, the OSAA staged a sanctioned girls division at the state tournament for the first time last year.
According to the OSAA's assessment data, 911 girls signed up to wrestle at Oregon high schools this season, compared to 609 last year and just 81 back in 2005-06.
Of Canby's eight girls, all are first-year wrestlers. Most are underclassmen, and none are seniors.
Ashley Martin, a 2018 graduate of Canby High School and former wrestler, is coaching the girls team.
After serving as a volunteer coach last year, Martin received a paid position this season.
"The amount of improvement we've had over the season is incredible," Martin said. "They've totally turned from not knowing anything to actual wrestlers that can make the next step. It's really great to see."
Calderon is not the only Canby wrestler to taste success.
At the Larry Owings meet, Perez Cabrera, a sophomore, placed second in the 130-pound division. Garcia (130) finished fifth at the War of Roses.
Nearly all of the girls have a rugby background, and were encouraged to try the sport by former Canby wrestler and rugby player Maren Gingerich.
Gingerich finished fourth at the district tournament last season when only two girls from each division qualified for state.
"I started out last year, but I didn't continue it," said Perez Cabrera, who quit after a couple of preseason practices. "I decided to try it again this year and stuck with it. It's been very tough, but it's fun."
Lopez, another sophomore rugby player, is finally healthy after missing much of the season with a sprained MCL in her left knee.
"We all kind of came in as a group of friends," Lopez said. "It's been pretty fun. It's hard, too, but I think it makes us stronger. It's a great adventure. You learn all these new things. Conditioning is a lot. At the end of the day, you feel really accomplished by it."
While all eight Canby girls will wrestle in their first district tournament, Molalla sophomore Haley Hewitt is no stranger to the state qualifier.
As a freshman at Gladstone, Hewitt wrestled at the district tournament last season, but did not place.
She expects to do much better this year.
"I'm a lot more committed now than I was," Hewitt said. "I'm a lot better trained, better technique."
Hewitt wrestled in fourth, fifth and sixth grade in Milwaukie before taking two years off.
"I missed it a lot, and going to tournaments," Hewitt said. "I missed hanging out with the boys. They're like my brothers."
While Hewitt is the only girl wrestler at Molalla, she trains at All-Phase Wrestling in West Linn with Destiny Rodriguez, who won a world championship at the U15 World School Combat Games in Budapest, Hungary, in June.
Hewitt, who placed second at both the Oregon Classic and Hood River Girls Invitational this season, also attends all-girl practices on Sundays in Oregon City.
"This year I've put a lot more work in," Hewitt said. "I should go farther with it."
A little over 400 girls participated in the two regionals last year and OSAA assistant executive director Brad Garrett anticipates that number growing this year.
"The (OSAA) board will need to have further discussions about potentially adding additional qualifying events moving forward," Garrett said.
Follow us on Twitter
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.