Forest Grove team, Hilhi's Medina, Rickett, shine at girls state wrestling meet
The Forest Grove girls wrestling team are kings of the mat.
The Vikings were amongst 87 schools that sent wrestlers to the OSAA Girls State Wrestling Championships, but when the dust settled it was Forest Grove that stood atop the standings Thursday, Feb. 24, at Culver High School.
In all, the Vikes boasted one state champion and three second-place finishers en route to 99 points, 24 points clear of second place and two-time defending champion Thurston (75), and 30 points ahead of third place Hillsboro (69).
"I couldn't be more proud of what these girls have accomplished in just three years," Forest Grove head coach Guy Takahashi said. "They are dedicated athletes that have done everything that we asked of them."
Vikings assistant coach Tom Siciliano added that while they weren't surprised by the result, they were a bit shocked when it actually came to fruition—and he attributed it all to the girls' hard work.
"Coming into the tournament, we thought we had a chance to get all four girls into the finals, but then when it actually happened it just blew our mind," Siciliano said. "This is about the hard work they put in, the dedication. They're there every morning lifting weights. They're at practice every morning, every day after school. They put in the time, they put in the work, and they got the benefit."
Forest Grove senior Ella Taplin wasted little time along the way to her 190-pound state title, pinning all of her first three opponents in less than a minute-and-a-half before doing the same to Scappoose's Anna Rintoul in the third round of the final. Afterwards she spoke to road that ultimately led her to a state championship.
"The whole season has been a really awesome experience," she said. "My sophomore year I was actually in the 145-pound weight class. COVID, I think it made a lot of people gain weight — but for me it definitely did, right? So last year was a lot of figuring out how to wrestle heavyweights and stuff, and then this year I think I've got it down."
To say the least.
Takahashi wasn't surprised by the result, and said he knew she was the best in her class going in.
"She's by far the best athlete and wrestler at her class," he said. "During these past weeks getting ready for the state tournament, we focused her to just wrestle with our boys close to her weight. I knew if she just maintained the plan there was nothing stopping her."
Taplin was joined on the podium by senior teammate Makaila Takahashi who was second in the 135-pound weight division, junior Jasmine Hopkins who too was second at 145 pounds, and freshman Kennedy Blanton who was runner-up at 130 pounds.
Blanton—who was unseeded entering the event—defeated McKay's Marilyn Mentado in the first round, fourth-seeded Kristal Zamora from Thurston in the second, and shocked everyone by pinning top-seeded MacKenzie Shearon of Redmond in the semifinals before losing to Hillsboro's Alice Rickett in the final.
"In the first round or two, I was down on points, but that last round I knew what I had to do and I just did it," Blanton said. "My coach looked at me and he said, 'How bad do you want it?' I knew how bad I wanted it, so I went and got it."
In the end, Coach Takahashi couldn't have been more proud of his girls, but knew it didn't begin or end with the wrestlers, showing gratitude for the "team" around them that helped make the victory possible.
"I also want to thank our school and administrators for all the support to make this happen," the coach said. "Championships are a team effort more than just coaches and athletes."
Hillsboro's third place performance was led by senior Ayana Medina who capped her high school career with a third individual state championship, defeating Newberg's Sophia Redwine by Major Decision (12-3) in the 125-pound final.
Medina—who plans to wrestle in college but has yet to determine where—said after her finals victory that she's been aiming for this win all season, but more than anything just wanted to be sure she left nothing on the table in her final high school match.
"It was great and so exciting," Medina said. "My senior year — all I wanted to do was give it my all. And that's what I did. I knew that Sophia was a tough, tough, tough girl, and I knew I had to have a really good plan and had to be confident in myself because she has really good skills."
The Spartans also got points from juniors Nina De Leon and Natalie De Leon, the latter of which placed sixth in the 110-pound division, along with fellow junior Alice Rickett who won a state title at 130 pounds.
Rickett—who was the No. 2-seed entering the event—defeated Ontario's Hannah Hernandez, Illinois Valley's Juliette Wolf, Tillamook's Arianna Brown, and Forest Grove's Blanton en route to her title—all by fall.
Medina said she couldn't have been more proud of her team, and added that Rickett's victory, along with the success of their other underclassmen is a sign of things to come for the Spartans going forward.
"I'm super excited, really happy about the outcome and proud of my team," she said. ""I think the girls coming up are going to show everyone who Hillsboro really is."
St. Helens' finished an impressive fifth in the team competition and was paced by four strong finishes, including three fourth-place finishes by sophomore Kate Leonard (105), senior Ashley Willis (110), and junior Cambria Funk (170), followed by junior Terese Korpela's sixth place finish at 120 pounds.
Scappoose was 10th and finished with two second-place placers, junior Courtney Hall at 115 pounds, and senior Anna Rintoul at 190 pounds respectively.
Tualatin sophomore Madi Randels placed second in the 155-pound weight division, falling to top-seeded Destiny Rodriguez of West Linn in the final.
Liberty senior Faith Wooley also concluded a successful tournament and season by placing third in the 235-pound weight division, defeating three by fall before pinning Mallory Lusco of Grant Union in the finals.
Glencoe's Izselle Mercado and Yamilet Claudio Marquez finished fifth and sixth in the 105-pound weight division.
Century's Emilia Correa Artiaga earned fifth in the 120-pound weight division.
Andy Dieckhoff contributed to this report.
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