Titans a ‘team of dedicated girls who want to improve themselves’
CAMAS — Krista Warren thought her chance at an individual title in the biggest high school girls wrestling tournament of the season was about to end.
On her back and in danger of being pinned during the semifinals, she fought her way out of that situation, tied the match, then won in overtime to advance to the finals of the 140-pound weight class at the Kelso Girls Invite last weekend.
Warren, a junior from Union, kept her momentum and pinned her opponent in the finals.
“I jumped up and kind of said ‘Yes!’ and she saw me,” Warren said. “I felt kind of bad. I couldn’t help it. I was just so excited.”
Warren was not trying to rub it in. She was just thrilled with her accomplishment.
She and the rest of the Union Titans are a bit surprised at just how far they have progressed in this sport. The Union girls wrestling team took second out of 84 teams at the Kelso Invite, an event featuring 562 athletes.
Union, a team that had five wrestlers just two years ago, now has 14 and just placed high at the most prestigious regular-season girls event in the state.
The success of the Titans is not just from the number of wrestlers, though. It comes from how each and every one of them is committed to the sport.
“We have a team of dedicated girls who want to improve themselves to the best that we can,” said junior Annabelle Helm, who took second place at 145 pounds in Kelso.
“We’re getting to set a standard for the girls who will follow us,” added senior Marissa Montano, who took fourth place at 135 pounds.
In all, 10 girls from Clark County, including five from Union, placed at Kelso. Most, if not all, are expected to compete this weekend at the Clark County Wrestling Championships at Skyview High School.
Washougal has been the leader in the county in terms of girls wrestling over the years. Last weekend, though, it was Union that had its best team moment in program history.
“It’s really cool to be part of something like this,” Warren said. “To come in second made us all ecstatic. We have a chance at placing like that at state.”
Placing so high means even more with at such a large tournament. Helm has been wrestling since the fourth grade. She has seen small girls events with just a couple wrestlers in a weight class.
At Kelso, there were 64-person brackets. Not all of those slots were filled — there were many first-round byes — but there were more than 50 wrestlers in many of the weight classes. That did not happen years ago.
“Girls wrestling is just exploding,” Helm said. “It was really cool to see how many girls were there.”
Some, such as Helm, have been wrestling for years.
Montano, though, started wrestling her sophomore year at Union. The sport saved her in a way.
“I was not going down the right path my freshman year,” Montano acknowledged. “I joined wrestling (as a sophomore) and it became my second family. I’d do anything for the people in that room. Even if I wasn’t good at wrestling, I’d still wrestle for them and the coaches.”
Montano said she would love an individual title at Clark County, something she has not accomplished. But she would be more satisfied with a team title in her senior season.
As special as it is, Clark County is not as big as the Kelso Invite.
“To see that many girls there, it was a little intimidating at first,” Warren said. “But then I was really happy. It just shows the sport is growing and more and more girls are willing to do it and are tough enough and brave enough.”
“It was chaos,” Montano said. “It was just crazy. The performances. The sportsmanship. Everything like that was awesome. People say wrestling is a dying sport. I think it’s just beginning.”