Hood River Valley High School wrestler Jessica DeHart won five straight matches to claim a national title over the weekend in Fargo, N.D.
The soon-to-be sophomore won the 101-pound Cadet Freestyle women’s national championship Saturday night, becoming one of just a few top Hood River athletes to claim such a title. Along with DeHart, five other Hood River wrestlers were in Fargo to compete on the Oregon National team in freestyle and Greco roman tournaments.
“It’s been very exciting to be here,” DeHart said Monday from the Fargo Dome. After a short break she moved on to wrestle in the 105-pound junior division tournament, which paired her against older, more experienced high school girls. “I’m just going to do my best and see what happens. I’d love to get another All-American title.”
DeHart made it to Saturday’s finals with wins against wrestlers from Indiana, Maryland, Illinois and California. Under a spotlight in the massive arena, the championship match pitted her against Marizza Birrueta of Washington.
“I could hear my mom, dad, brother and teammates in the stands cheering for me,” she said. “It’s so big; I was nervous at first. But at the same time I knew I had the wind to beat here. I’ve been working hard and feel like I’m in really good shape, so that has been really helpful.”
In a best of three rounds format, DeHart won the opening round 6-0 with three separate two-point counters from a shot Birrueta couldn’t finish. The second round was battle of footwork and hand fighting. About a minute in, DeHart scored a take-down, which would prove to be the only point of the round. As time expired, she fought off Birrueta’s last-ditch attempts to score to seal the title.
“I had dreams that I would do this well and they came true,” she said in a post-match interview, giving credit to “smart wrestling and listening to my coaches.”
During the high school season, DeHart was the team’s number-one 106-pound varsity wrestler, which is a feat in itself for any freshman, not to mention a girl wrestling against boys. She went 16-16 in the season and went on to win the girls state championship alongside teammate and senior standout Katie Eddy, who has also claimed a girls national title and is in Fargo aiming at another.
DeHart acknowledges that although wrestling against boys can be tough, it has also made her much tougher and stronger.
“Jessica is a phenomenal athlete and is very competition; she hates to lose,” said Trent Kroll, HRVHS head wrestling coach. “She always works hard and never takes the easy route. Those extra steps pay off and we are very proud of her.”
DeHart comes from a wrestling family with a long history in Hood River. She is the first, however, to claim such a title.
“My dad, brother, uncles and cousins all wrestle,” she said. “But now I have something to brag about in front of them. It feels great.”
Also at the tournament are Hood River wrestlers Christian Marquez, Juan Karlos Hernandez, David Brunk, Katie Eddy and MaKenna Sullinger. Wrestling continues through the week in freestyle and Greco disciplines. A report on these wrestlers will be featured in the July 21 Hood River News. For updates, photos and videos of the tournament visit www.facebook.com/hoodriverwrestling.