Hillsboro senior Ayana Medina isn't a big fan of school.
"I don't particularly enjoy it, but I don't hate it," she said with a chuckle. "I like learning about certain things, but others I'm not that fond of."
What she is fond of is wrestling — and she's darn good at it.
The senior is a two-time state champion, winning her freshman year in the 105-pound weight division, and last year pinning Sweet Home's Jessy Hart in just 1:05 to secure the crown at 130 pounds.
This year, she's hoping for more of the same, with a twist beyond her third state title.
"For myself, I'm definitely shooting towards a state championship," Medina said. "And for my team, I definitely think we can also win the state championship. With the girls we have and as hard as they've been working, I think we can do it."
Medina comes from a wrestling family. In fact, her dad is the girls coach at Hillsboro High.
But despite the family tradition and her close connection to the sport, wrestling was an acquired taste for the standout Spartans grappler, who is beginning her fifth year on the mat.
"Mostly what got me into it was my siblings, because I didn't want to be the only one who didn't wrestle," Medina said. "In the beginning, I didn't like how much work you had to put into it, but as I got more into it, I realized that it was good for me and I liked the challenge. It's really been character-building for me."
And it's that challenge and the work that comes with it that has separated Medina. She said she works out Monday through Friday with her Hilhi teammates, and a couple of hours twice a week with her independent wrestling club.
Despite Medina winning her first state title in just her second year on the mat, Hillsboro head coach Stephen Moreno said she's come a long way since her freshman year, and he believes she's just scratched the surface of the success she could have going forward.
"Ayana has had an impressive journey so far in her wrestling and student career, and I don't think we are even close to seeing her potential," Moreno said.
He went on to speak to the role she's played in strengthening the school's girls program, something he said won't soon be forgotten by the program and those participating in it.
"The program needed her to be a 'success by hard work' type of leader and Ayana has impressed me in all facets," the coach said. "She chooses academic rigor in class, seeks the tough competition on the mat and is anxious to lead. Ayana is set to leave a lasting mark in our program's history, raising the bar for the entire program."
The sport has changed significantly in Oregon since Medina's freshman year. The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) said girls wrestling had an average participation increase of 29.3% per year since the 2016 season, when there were just 249 wrestlers statewide. In the 2020 season, there were 857, and because of that, girls like Medina are able to wrestle far more against their female brethren than the boys they were mostly forced to face four years ago.
Medina is fine either way, but said she's found training with girls to be more beneficial.
"I like wrestling with the girls more to be honest because I think they're harder workers," she said. "They (boys) tend to slack off more and goof around, while I feel like girls just get after it and really work hard."
No offense, boys.
Medina was No. 7-ranked at 122 pounds nationally as of the Nov. 17 rankings, and it's prestige like that that has her drawing interest from colleges across the nation. She said she'd like to wrestle in college and at the moment is considering an offer from North Central College in Illinois, where she plans to visit soon.
She added that while still unsure as to what she may want to study in college, she's leaning in the direction of kinesiology with an eye on potentially being an athletic trainer. But for now, Medina is focused on her final year's studies and what she hopes will be further success on the mat — for her and her teammates.
"That's definitely what we're working towards," she said.
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