Two local wrestlers score individual titles at North Region girls tourney
Oregon City's Emma Baertlein was in no mood Saturday to dilly-dally on the wrestling mat.
The quicker she could take care of business, the better.
Baertlein scored a first-round pin over La Grande's Delia Gulzow to wrap up the 100-pound title at the OSAA North Region girls wrestling championships at Century High School.
"I knew I could beat her, but I just had to focus," said Baertlein, who put Gulzow on her back at 1:44 of the first quarter. "I get nervous before every match, but I wasn't worried about losing."
Milwaukie's Fiona McConnell also made her way to the top of the winners' podium, winning her second regional title when she won by a 10-3 decision over Ontario's Abigail Osei in the 190-pound final.
"It was a tough match and I had to wrestle smart," McConnell said. "I had to work for it. That's what I look for in wrestling. I don't always get that a lot."
Oregon City's Sydney Carter placed second at 170, Milwaukie's Jaden South placed third at 125, and Putnam's Cheyenne MacKenzie took third at 140 in qualifying for the Feb. 28-29 OSAA state championship tournament at Portland's Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Baertlein, a junior, made an impressive regional run, going 4-0 with four pins and without surrendering a point in any of her opponents.
"Usually, especially if I'm wrestling somebody I know I can beat pretty easily, my coach will have me cut them and work on takedowns," Baertlein said. "But before this tournament started, she just said, 'We're not messing around. We'd just getting it done.' And I did."
Baertlein needed only 13 seconds to pin Century's Ashley Hernandez in her opening match, she pinned Jefferson's Isabella Schulz at 1:40 of the first round in the quarterfinals, and then she put Forest Grove's Lysandra Fuentes on her back midway through the second round in the semifinals.
In the final, Baertlein used a single-leg takedown to put Gulzow on the mat, and then went from an arm bar into a half-nelson to put the match away.
"When she kept stepping with her left foot, I just set up the single-leg," Baertlein said. "We were close to going out of bounds and I was trying to set up my arm bar, but she kept pushing the arm away, so I just threw in the half.
"I don't really get gassed, but a lot of things can happen the longer you're on the mat. Some people mess up. I know I've seen matches turn around, just like that, in the final 10 seconds of a round. So, it really helped to get it done early."
Baertlein, a junior, earned her first regional title and is heading to state for the third time.
"Emma was phenomenal," Pioneers coach NaTasha Umemoto said. "I mean, beautiful shot, out the back door, and straight into an arm bar. It was everything she practices, picture-perfect."
Looking ahead to state, Baertlein is anticipting a possible showdown with South Region champion Olivia Flack of La Pine, whose only loss this season was to Baertlein in the finals of the Jan. 25 Hood River Invitational.
"I feel pretty confident," said Baertlein, the 100-pound runner-up at last year's state final. "I just have to wrestle smart."
There were only 12 wrestlers entered at 190 pounds, so McConnell, the top seed from Milwaukie, drew a pass into the quarterfinals.
McConnell jumped out to a 12-1 lead before she won by second-round pin over Banks' Kassandra Douglas, and then she led 10-0 before winning by another second-round fall over Warrenton's Jade Vollner in the semifinals.
In the final, McConnell took a 3-1 lead into the third round against Osei, who scored an escape to make it a one-point match with 1:45 remaining. McConnell then scored a takedown and a three-point near fall, Osei got another escape, and then McConnell added another takedown to seal the decision.
"When it was 3-2, I was still ahead and I knew I was good if I wrestled smart and kept working inside," McConnell said. "She tried to throw me, I let her up a little bit, and then she tried to shoot and I caught it.
"I didn't even see the shot. I just felt it and my instincts took over at that point. Once we were on the mat, I couldn't quite get the half and sink it, but I was able to turn her."
She said it was tougher than it looked.
"A lot of these girls are flexible where they bend basically in half," McConnell said. "I'm not that flexible, but I know how to wrestle and I was just like, 'OK, we'll work it.'
"I knew she couldn't shoot on me and I had enough confidence in my neutral fighting that I wouldn't get put on my back."
McConnell, last year's state runner-up at 190 as a sophomore, is ready to take the next step.
"I'm excited," she said. "I've got a good chance of taking first at state this year. I'm hoping that I can win and then do it again next year."
Carter, the No. 2 seed at 170, won her first four matches by first-round fall and then lost to top-seeded Olivia Robinson of Glencoe by second-round fall in the final.
At 125, Milwaukie's South bounced back from a loss to Lincoln's Sophie Keefer in the semifinals to finish third, scoring an 11-3 major decision over Molalla's Haley Hewlett in the consolation semifinals before winning by second-round fall over Sunset's Skyeler Bala.
After Putnam's MacKenzie lost by first-round fall to Glencoe's Elbereth Ragsdale in the semis at 140, she turned around and won by first-round pin over Canby's Havlyn Ehrich, and then won by a 7-2 decision in overtime against Ontario's Maria Diaz in the third-place match.
Centennial and Scappoose finished in a tie for top team honors with 166 points each, with Hillsboro (150), Century (140), and Forest Grove (114) rounding out the top five. There were a total of 276 wrestlers representing 41 schools in the North Region tournament, and another 268 wrestlers from 59 schools in the South.
By Jim Beseda
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