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OSAA state qualifier takes place Feb. 7-8 at Century High School in Hillsboro

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Wilsonville freshman Emilie Miller finished first at the Colton Holly Invite last month.

Emilie Miller wants to wrestle the best.

"I need to run into a few more studs to really see what it's like," the Wilsonville freshman said.

Miller soon will get her wish.

She is one of three Wilsonville girls going to the Special District North tournament Feb. 7-8 at Century High School in Hillsboro.

"I'm a little nervous, but looking forward to the experience to get better," Miller said.

From the two qualifying tournaments, North and South, the top four girls in each weight class will advance to an eight-girl bracket at the state tournament Feb. 28-29 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

"I want to earn my spot," Miller said. "I don't want to feel like it was given to me, especially my first year. I don't want the beginner's luck title. I want to earn it."

Miller, a club volleyball player, comes from a wrestling family. Her brother Wyatt, a 2019 Wilsonville graduate, competed for the Wildcats.

But she's new to the sport.

"Ever since I watched my brother when I was little, I've always been interested in it," Miller said. "I tried it out, and I'm having tons of fun."

Miller has been a quick study, placing in every tournament she has competed in — first at the Colton Holly Invitational, second at Don York, and fifth at the Hood River Girls Invitational.

"My dad likes to tell me that I'm a natural at everything that I do," Miller said. "I think that things come hard to me. It's just a matter of doing my best and bring what I have to the table and seeing where it takes me. Every single time I wrestle, I watch my match almost immediately after and pick out my mistakes and talk to my coaches about it and fix it at practice the next day. That's exactly what I intend to keep doing."

Miller already has wrestled some of the state's best including Mountain View senior Taylor Ohlson, who placed second in the 130-pound division at last year's girls state tournament.

"I'm glad I got a chance to wrestle her because she's one of the better wrestlers and it's only going to make me better," Miller said.

There are no classifications (6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A/1A) for the girls as there are for the boys.

After hosting an exhibition state tournament for girls since 2005-06, the OSAA staged a sanctioned girls division at the state tournament for the first time last year.

According to the OSAA's assessment data, 911 girls signed up to wrestle at Oregon high schools this season, compared to 609 last year and just 81 back in 2005-06.

With an increased interest at Wilsonville, head coach Jason Milham brought on Dallas Malone to coach the girls.

Malone, who has served as an assistant girls soccer coach at Wilsonville for the past two years, grew up around wrestling. Her dad coached the sport and her brother, a freshman at Thurston, wrestles.

But Malone, who played college soccer at Portland State, never wrestled herself.

"It's definitely been a new experience," Malone said. "Wrestling is obviously different than soccer. The first time I got out there and wrestled one of the girls, I was surprised how tiring it is. It's really tough. My dad is super stoked for me to be a wrestling coach. I think he kind of regrets not putting me in wrestling because he sees the need for female wrestling coaches is so high now."

Malone has learned a lot from the other wrestling coaches at Wilsonville.

"I lean very heavily on the assistant coaches," Malone said. "A lot of what I know is because they've taught me. There's usually at least one of them with me at the tournaments. It's nice to have that crutch to lean on and get that advice to help me coach the girls because I can coach women. But in a sport I don't know, it's helpful to have people that know the sport really well helping me out."

Malone was able to recruit one of her soccer players to the wrestling team — freshman Skylar Wellborn.

Wellborn started out as a stat girl before deciding to give the sport a try about a month into the season.

"She's one of our most dedicated kids," Malone said of Wellborn. "She's tough and works her butt off. I'm glad she decided to join after all my pleading."

Wellborn won her first match on Jan. 25 in Hood River.

"It's definitely challenging and something you have to fully commit to," Wellborn said. "I'm learning new things every day. I think the sport is definitely underrated for girls. It's a fun sport."

Wellborn also is going to the district tournament along with Miller and fellow Wilsonville freshman Keely Sanford.

"I hope for all of them to get a top four spot and we'll take them to state, and I think that alone is a huge accomplishment, seeing how new all of them are," Malone said. "We'll just keep continuing to build, and in a couple of years, hopefully, place at state and get their names out there."

Derek Wiley
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