Forest Grove's Ella Taplin is winning the right way
Life works in mysterious ways.
Since she was five years old, Forest Grove's Ella Taplin played and loved softball. But it wasn't until middle and high school that she surprisingly found her true athletic calling: wrestling.
"I definitely did not see this coming," Taplin said with a laugh. "I tried basketball, I tried volleyball, I tried all these different things, but wrestling never crossed my mind until Marshall Cook (Neil Armstrong Middle School coach) came up to me and was like, 'You need to wrestle for me.'"
A handful of years later, Taplin is an individual state champion and was part of the school's first-ever state champion wrestling team.
"Winning state meant the world to me, but winning it with the team was something so special," she said. "The relationship I have with my wrestling team … it's truly like my family."
All has not been rosy for the senior. There have been some bumps in the road.
Pre-pandemic, Taplin wrestled at 145 pounds for the Vikings. Over the year following the onslaught of COVID-19, the then-junior gained 45 pounds. When she reported for wrestling in spring 2021, she stepped on the scale for the first time and was faced with the reality of the toll the previous year had taken.
"I stepped on the scale and I just started bawling," Taplin said. "But my coach (Guy Takahashi) hugged me and said, 'You just wrestle where you're at. It doesn't matter what the scale says.' And I think hearing him say that changed my perspective."
Taplin said weight had long been an issue for her. She had an eating disorder prior to the pandemic, she told the News-Times. She said that during her sophomore year, she'd avoid water for much of the day, would at times wear sweat suits in the sauna for up to 20 minutes, and even resorted to laxatives as a means of shedding pounds.
Weight has always been a prominent aspect of wrestling for both men and women, quite obviously due to having specific weight classes. But often for female wrestlers, it's an uncomfortable thing to announce your weight to the masses, Taplin said.
"100 percent," she said regarding the topic. "I think that because in our society, we're made to feel so bad about being heavier, even though for a lot of people, it's a healthier thing. I'm physically healthier now at this weight and much happier with it."
Weight is a non-factor with softball, where you'd normally find Taplin toeing the pitching rubber in the circle for the Vikes. But a forearm injury has limited the senior's action this season and of late put her on the shelf for what could be the remainder of the season. (She's still hopeful she can return.)
Forest Grove is 12-5 overall this season and is 3-3 in Pacific Conference play, fourth in the league. Presently they're No. 19-ranked in the OSAA rankings and are on pace to make the state playoffs. The last few years have been a struggle for the Vikings, and Taplin said it's nice being able to experience success with a group that over the preceding years she's become tight with.
"A lot of us have been playing together since we were really little," she said. "We all mesh really well together, and I think that's why we've been doing a lot better.
"It's definitely been a good experience, and you can tell that a lot of us are happier to be there."
This will be it for Taplin's softball career, she says, and possibly the end of her wrestling road. She has an opportunity to wrestle for Linfield next fall, and she said she was near committing not long ago, but she's now thinking that for the sake of her own mental health, she ought to take a break from competitive sports.
Taplin is currently planning to attend Portland Community College in the fall and study exercise science, with an eye on becoming an athletic trainer. She has discussed with the Linfield coaches the possibility of joining the team a year or two down the road, but for now, she'll focus on getting healthy and doing whatever she's capable of to help Forest Grove softball get to the playoffs.
"I want my team to make it to the playoffs, and I think we genuinely can," Taplin said. "If I can't finish out the season, I will continue to be there to cheer them on."
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