Krista Warren competed in the first Junior College National Championships for women’s wrestling
It all happened so fast.
First, the championship match was over in the first round.
Her arm was raised.
Krista Warren said she was kind of on auto-pilot at that moment.
It was all a blur.
Soon after, after she was walking out of the gymnasium, the magnitude of what she just accomplished became a reality.
“It kind of hit me after the tournament,” Warren said. “I looked at my teammates. ‘We were just part of the first ever junior college nationals for women. That’s crazy. Who gets to be part of the first ever, really?’
“It didn’t hit me while in the match. It hit me later, when I had time to think about it.”
Krista Warren, a 2019 graduate of Union High School who won a state title for the Titans, is now a national champion, representing Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay.
Warren won at 143 pounds in the inaugural Junior College National Championships in women’s wrestling, held earlier this month in Roseburg, Ore.
With the pandemic causing scheduling chaos across the country, only a handful of teams and wrestlers traveled to the first-of-its-kind event. Indian Hills CC of Iowa won the inaugural team title. Warren expects the event to grow.
“I think it was a good step in the right direction,” she said of her sport. “There will definitely be more teams the next year and the year after that and the year after that. Pretty soon it will be a huge JUCO national.
“It was really special to be part of the first ever.”
Just wrestling again is special to Warren, as well.
After winning the high school state title in 2019, her plan was to wrestle at a four-year program. Instead, the coach who was recruiting her moved to another school.
“I was lucky enough, smart enough to have a back-up plan,” Warren said. “I had a really good offer from SWOC.”
She found a home at the two-year college. Unfortunately for Warren, though, her freshman season lasted not even two matches. She tore an anterior cruciate ligament in her knee. It would be four months before surgery.
“It was a super-slow recovery. I was not allowed to run. I was ‘mom-walking’ everywhere,” she said. “It was definitely a struggle. I’m used to high-pace, intense drilling and practice.”
She would not be cleared to wrestle again until this past December. She was back in Clark County, training at Merle Crockett’s Southwest Washington Wrestling Club. She was unsure of any college wrestling season. And, more seriously, she was unsure of her own abilities.
“Tearing your ACL, I feel, it messes up your confidence,” Warren said. “Going back to that club really helped me.”
She credited Crockett for bringing her back to her old self.
“I was really timid with certain things. He knew I could do it,” Warren said. “He just knew I had more potential.”
Back at SWOC, Warren and her teammate Kaci Bice trained together. Warren said Bice also was instrumental in her recovery, allowing her the opportunity to compete.
SWOC then gave the go-ahead for a shortened season. Warren was initially ranked No. 2 in the nation, but at 130 pounds. She ended up wrestling at 143.
In the abbreviated season, Warren went 12-0, all victories either by pin or technical fall. She won the national title with a first-round pin.
“It was pretty crazy. In high school, I never used arm bars. For some reason, I started using them out of nowhere. Almost like they just came to me,” Warren explained.
She used one in the finals, too.
“Honestly, it was the best arm bar I’ve ever got in a match,” she said.
Warren said there were different feelings for this national title compared to her state title at Union High School.
“It was something I had been working on for four years,” she said of state. “It hit me all at once there. With this one, it was a little bit different. I was out of wrestling (for more than a year with the injury) and I was just trying to wrestle my best.
“I had goals, but … in high school, it was clear and set: I wanted to be a state champion. Now in college, it was different. Especially with COVID, and we didn’t have many matches. I didn’t want to lose, but I didn’t know what I wanted to win, either.”
Until it came time to be part of a first for her sport.
“I’m thankful for it,” Warren said.
Because of COVID, Warren could have another year of eligibility at SWOC. Instead, she is looking into moving on to a four-year program.
“I think it’s time. I definitely need to take it to the next level,” Warren said.
There is always a new challenge in her sport.
“It’s a way of life. It’s brought out the best in me,” Warren said. “Just showed me how tough I can really be. I remember what life was like before wrestling. I always knew I was tougher than most girls and even boys, but I didn’t have a way of proving that.”
She found a way.
“Wrestling puts you through a lot, it puts you through the ringer,” Krista Warren said. “I just keep coming out stronger.”