West Linn's Destiny Rodriguez poised for dominant stretch run
There's dominance, and then there's Destiny.
A three-time girls wrestling state champion and back-to-back Oregon 5A/6A Female Preps Athlete of the Year, West Linn's Destiny Rodriguez, a rising senior, has a stranglehold on the state of Oregon.
And nobody's had a better vantage point than Kevin Keeney, who, since welcoming Rodriguez to the All-Phase Wrestling Club in 2014 and later becoming her coach at West Linn High School, has watched closely as one of the nation's premiere talents stacks accomplishments year after year.
"She just absolutely does not get touched in the state of Oregon regarding women's wrestling," said Keeney, who remains the head coach at All-Phase in addition to his new role at the high school. "She smashes them all. She's just so elite at what she does."
Rodriguez's father Isrrael coached at a mat club throughout his daughter's early years. When the time came, a 6-year-old Rodriguez hit the mat herself.
"I loved being pushed every day," she said. "The practices were always tough. And I liked challenging myself."
Due to a lack of women's participation locally, she grew up wrestling boys. And while she didn't win a match for the first two years of her career, she's since become a singular, forcefully-ascending talent with a U15 World Championship and High School National Championship under her belt.
The sport has grown enough that she no longer has to wrestle boys. She still does, however, during practices at West Linn to stay sharp.
"She is just one of the hardest workers I've ever met," Keeney said. "If we don't have practice or we don't have something going on as a team, she's going somewhere else to try to get more work."
Rodriguez is again taking her talents to an international level. On Saturday, Aug. 13, she set off for Bulgaria where she'll compete for the USA in the U-20 Women's World Wrestling Championships.
"(My coaches) keep telling me that I'm ready," she said. "And my teammates are always there for me. I feel like (I've been) pushed really well."
She's traveled abroad before — Budapest in 2019 and Spain earlier this summer for the Grand Prix. She's learned some of her most important lessons abroad.
"Just getting to see how other people wrestle in other countries and the differences (is great)," she said. "They have different attacks, different ways of wrestling. A lot of the girls like upper-body throws."
She wrestles Folkstyle for her high school tournaments and Freestyle for all competitions outside high school. The primary difference is in the scoring. In Folkstyle, an individual is required to both throw and hold their opponent down to score, whereas Freestyle scoring is much more liberal and requires less holding after the fact.
Facing varying styles and opponents has helped the West Linn star become more aware of her shortcomings and a more well-rounded athlete.
"You might fool her once. You don't fool her twice," Keeney said. "She might wrestle with a new style, and it might catch her off guard… (so) she goes back to the drawing board and fixes things. She is a real student of the game."
Her 10-year-old brother Damian, a football player and wrestler, may soon be on a similar route, thanks in large part to his sister.
When Damian is wrestling, Rodriguez is in his corner.
"He looks up to me as his coach," she said.
Pride and sibling relationship aside, Damian's chosen his role model well.
According to Keeney, Damian isn't the only one soaking up what they can from Rodriguez as she enters the home stretch of her high school career.
"There's a lot of girls out there, especially in our club and team, that really look up to her," Keeney said. "She's just been a really great role model and a great example for us to have around our team and our club to help build the sport of wrestling with the girls."
Rodriguez entered high school with the then-lofty goal of a four-peat at the state championship. She's well on her way. She said she'd like to make another world team, too. And while she's devoted an increasing amount of time towards the act of mentoring upcomers around her, she's laser focused on what's to come.
"She's just the nicest, sweetest girl off the mat. But I think behind closed doors, it just eats at her, (the thought of) anybody having an edge on her," Keeney said.
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