Womens high school wrestling finally had its night at the OSAA State Wrestling Championships last weekend, and the Eagle girls made the most of it.
Senior Grace Miller won a long-sought-after championship after three second place finishes and earned outstanding wrestler in the Women’s division. Elena Kroll, also a senior, and freshman Emily Sullenger both placed second at the first ever sanctioned girls wrestling championships at Memorial Coliseum.
The Eagles also won the team championship, beating out contender Hillsboro for the title 48-38. Head coach Trent Kroll was named women’s coach of the year.
Women’s wrestling has been building in Oregon for more than a decade, since its first appearance as a lonely, mid-day exhibition event in 2009. This was the first year it was sanctioned as its own division within the sport of wrestling by the Oregon School Activities Association and was showcased alongside the 1A/2A to 6A divisions on finals night with more than 10,000 in attendance.
“Phenomenal,” was the word head coach Trent Kroll used to describe the girls’ performance at state. “They put themselves in a position to win with 120 percent effort, and that’s how you earn championships.”
Miller (43-4) capped off the Eagle’s night with her win against Elmira’s Anna McDougal. Coming off first place finishes at both the Northern Regional Qualifier and Hood River Elks tournaments, Miller was favored to win the 145 pound weight class.
After pinning her way through the semifinals, Miller took an early shot in her finals match, undercutting McDougal’s legs and spinning around to gain the top position. From there, it was just a matter of time, as she locked both McDougals arms and ran her opponent to her back in Miller’s signature double chicken wing stack. McDougal was unable to continue the match.
“I just focused on believing in myself and wrestling my match,” said Miller. “I wanted this.”
Kroll (39-10) entered the state championships as the second seed, having dropped a tough match to Vale’s Tyler Richardson at regionals. Because first and second place finishers at each regional advance to the championships, Kroll, wrestling up a weight class at 140, faced Richardson for a finals rematch. While a win was not in the cards for Kroll, she said she was happy with her performance overall.
“One of the things this sport teaches you is how to learn from everything, whether it’s win or lose,” said Kroll. Kroll plans to wrestle or play lacrosse in college next year.
The third Eagle qualifier, Sullenger (25-4), battled back from early season injuries to earn her place in the championship. She pinned her semifinal opponent before facing off against two-time returning state champ, Emma Truex of Phoenix High School. Sullenger scored a reversal on Truex, but was caught in cradles that led to near-fall points. The match ended with Truex ahead 11-3.
Sullenger plans to wrestle through the spring in Freestyle and compete for a spot on the girls’ cultural exchange wrestling team traveling to South Africa this summer.
Miller, Kroll and Sullenger combined for 42 team points, enough to seal their place as the state’s first-ever girls championship team.
Earlier in the evening, head coach Trent Kroll was voted OSAA Women’s Coach of the Year and received a certificate of recognition from USA wrestling for his contributions to women’s wrestling in the state.
“We have been working on getting women’s wrestling sanctioned at the state level for more than a decade,” he said. “These girls taking the team championship in the first official year is very, very sweet. I could not be prouder of all of them.”
Boys: Muenzer places third, young Eagles gain experience at State
The Hood River Eagle Boys wrestling team highlighted both its youth and experience over two days of competition at the OSAA State Wrestling Championships last weekend at Memorial Coliseum. Five boys competed over the course of the two-day event, which draws more than 1,200 wrestlers from across the state.
“The kids were amazing,” said Kroll. “It’s a huge accomplishment for them to be here and have the experience of wrestling at state.”
The young Eagle boys squad brought no seniors to the championships. Led by junior Chad Muenzer’s third-place finish, also wrestling were juniors Cody Durham and Maverick Geller, sophomore Preston Armstrong and freshman Jayton Muenzer.
Chad Muenzer (39-9) began the tournament with a pin against Thurston’s Dylan Averill and advanced on the championship side of the bracket by beating Cole Seimen of Hillsboro 6-4 in overtime. He gave up two points early in his next match to Dallas’s Joe Foster and was not able to make up the deficit before time ran out, losing 4-8. Muenzer returned with back-to-back wins with a 6-0 decision over Redmond’s Trae Bolken before taking Redmond’s Jacob Curry 8-2.
Kroll said, “Muenzer coming back to earn third is a very hard thing to do after losing in the semifinals. I’m super proud of his rebound ability and character to be able to change goals midday and go earn it.
“It’s exciting to be here with a young crew knowing they’ll be back and just as hungry for next year’s tournament,” said Kroll.
Kroll was honored for being inducted into the Oregon Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. This is Kroll’s last year as head coach of the Eagles.
“We’ll be opening up the coaching job in the next few weeks and see what comes up,” he said. “I’m excited to be in a position as athletic director to oversee wrestling and all our other sports and how they can have such a transformative effect on kids’ lives.”
Jim Donnelly is an English teacher and assisstant high school wrestling coach at HRVHS.