West Linn wrestler Destiny Rodriguez drives ahead in 'big process'
If anyone needed a demonstration of Destiny Rodriguez's wrestling prowess, the nationally ranked West Linn sophomore provided it in a tournament at Aloha High School last week.
Rodriguez, the reigning girls state champion at 145 pounds, sent a shockwave through the tournament by using a fireman's carry to throw senior teammate Cael Brunson, a two-time Class 6A boys state champion.
"I saw an opening," Rodriguez said. "I was surprised actually that I got it because I know that he knows that I do that move a lot. I think he was surprised."
Brunson, who defeated Rodriguez 6-4 in a tournament two weeks earlier, came back to pin her after being taken down.
"I think that put a little fire in his belly," West Linn coach Doug Samarron said. "The thing about those two, they've been wrestling each other for a decade. They go to club together."
It showed the technical skill and strength of Rodriguez, who is ranked fourth in the nation at 145 pounds in the USA Wrestling for high school girls.
"I've got two state champions and a state runner-up on my team, but when it comes to body stance and hand work, man, she might be the best," Samarron said. "She's just really talented."
With girls competition scarce this season, Rodriguez has competed mostly against boys for the Lions, going 6-2 with six pins. But she will participate in the girls North regional Friday at Tillamook and go after first place in a statewide season-ending girls tournament June 24 at Cottage Grove.
Rodriguez will not compete for West Linn's boys team in the Three Rivers League district tournament Saturday at Tualatin.
"We talked about that, but once again, it's not going to help her in any way," Samarron said. "Right now, her focus pretty much is to continue to try to be a four-time state girls champion. Her biggest focus is that international level, which I don't blame her."
Rodriguez has compiled an impressive wrestling resume. In 2018, she won gold at the Pan American Games in Mexico. A year later, she won a Cadet freestyle national title in Fargo, North Dakota, and a world championship in the U15 World School Combat Games in Hungary.
Last summer, she was runner-up in Greco, freestyle and folkstyle in the USA Western States Championships in Utah, losing in all three finals to a college freshman, Tristan Kelly of Colorado Mesa. Rodriguez won a title at 150 in the USA Western States Preseason Championships in Utah in October.
Rodriguez had high hopes entering the U.S. Junior World Team Trials in Texas last month, but missed out on making the junior (grades 9-12) and cadet (ages 14-15) teams by placing third and fourth, respectively. She did earn an invitation to the team's training camp, however.
"I didn't plan to take third and fourth," Rodriguez said. "I wanted to go out there and win it and make the World Team. I know I could've done better, but I'm so proud of myself on how I did.
"I came back from that tournament learning a lot. That has helped me train harder and work on things. I'm really thankful for that tournament and everything in taught me, reflecting back on it."
In the junior bracket at the World Team Trials, Rodriguez made it to the 65-kilogram semifinals before getting pinned by Minnesota's Katerina Lange, who is No. 1 in the USA Wrestling high school rankings at 145.
"I felt like I could've beaten her," Rodriguez said. "I was actually winning most of the match, and then going into the second round, she had thrown me in like a head-and-arm, and I got caught there."
Samarron said that Rodriguez is playing the long game.
"For her, it's a big process," Samarron said. "She wants to be an Olympic champion one day. She's in the mix."
Samarron marvels at the ability of Rodriguez, who is "treated like a queen by her teammates," he said.
"Because of her international wrestling, when she takes you down, she's already hooking up some type of pinning combination or back-exposure combination," Samarron said. "She's good. The more I coach her, the more I'm just amazed at how good she is."
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