Oregon City junior Emma Baertlein stepped on the wrestling mat Saturday night with a simple game plan — stay calm, wrestle smart, don't force anything, and wrestle to win.
Baertlein executed the plan to perfection, scoring a 3-0 decision over La Pine's Olivia Flack to clinch the 100-pound state title at the OSAA girls wrestling championships at Portland's Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Baertlein broke a scoreless tie with an escape and a takedown in the final 25 seconds of the second round, and then got through a scoreless third round to lock up the first state title in the brief history of the Pioneers' girls program.
"Amazing," Baertlein said. "I just needed to believe in myself, because everybody knew I was ready. I knew I was ready. I just had to get that winning mindset.
"I didn't second-guess myself, I didn't do anything dumb, and I'm happy with my performance."
Baertlein and Flack had split two earlier matches this season — Flack winning a first-round fall at the Jan. 17 Oregon Classic duals, and Baertlein winning by a 4-0 decision at the Jan. 25 Hood River Invitational — so they had some idea what they were getting into Saturday.
In the first round, Baertlein took some shots at single-leg takedowns, Flack sprawled to avoid being taken down, and the two ended up in one stalemate position after another as the round ended without any scoring.
"My coach always says it's OK to be 0-0 at the end of the first round," Baertlein said. "I mean, it's always good to score in the first round just to get that edge, but when it's 0-0, I know to stay calm and still do what I know."
Baertlein chose bottom to start the second round and took a 1-0 lead when she sat out, rolled to his right, broke Flack's hold, and got to her feet for an escape with 24 seconds left in the period.
Flack tried to counter with a shot, Baertlein sprawled, then with both wrestlers still on their knees and facing one another, Baertlein spun behind Flack for the takedown with 11 seconds remaining.
"I saw the shot coming and I just sprawled and got behind as fast as I could," Baertlein said. "It was kind of a blur, if I'm being honest. I almost forgot that I got a takedown."
Both wrestlers were on their feet to start the third round, which looked a lot like the first round with Baertlein shooting, Flack sprawling, and the two finishing in a stalemate position.
"I knew I just had to wrestle smart," Baertlein said. "When she chose both up, I knew she was going to do that and I just had to stay in the middle of the mat and not stall. At that point, I just knew it was mine."
Flack said if she had it do over again, she would have tried to bring more pressure sooner.
"I didn't work my offense as much as I should have," Flack said. "I let her control most of the match when I should have been the one in control. She's quick and I didn't always keep up with the pace."
After time expired and the two wrestlers shook hands, Baertlein flexed for the crowd and then ran and jumped into the arms of Pioneers coach Na'Tasha Umemoto.
"That was amazing," Umemoto said. "It's all a culmination of all the hard work Emma put in this last year and it showed on the mat tonight.
"As a coach, it actually is so much more fulfilling watching these kids work hard and succeed than anything I experienced when I was an athlete. Emma is a phenomenal person, an exceptional student, and the pieces are all coming together for her."
Baertlein opened the tournament with a 7-0 win over North Medford's Alyx Cameron in Friday's quarterfinals, followed by a 6-2 decision over Newport's Chelo Garcia in Saturday morning's semifinals.
"I know people expected me to get through the first two matches really fast, but that wasn't my main intention," Baertlein said. "My intentions were to take it one match a time, one takedown at a time, one turn at a time.
"I didn't want to force anything. I wrestled patient and I wrestled smart. That's all that mattered."
Beartlein's title run came one year after she finished as the state runner-up to Newberg's Sophie Redwine, losing by a 6-0 decision — a loss that served as motivation in her preparation for this season.
"This is way better," Baertlein said. "I wasn't fully prepared last year. This year, I came in prepared. I put in the work all spring, all summer, all the preseason practices … everything. I put in the work."
The hard work paid off in a state championship.
"She got hungry for it," Umemoto said. "She wrestled all summer and she invested the time into this, but anybody can win on any given day. That's why we wrestle.
"She's only a state champion for today. She has to go back to work tomorrow."
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