WINCHESTER — When the Umpqua Community College women’s wrestling team competed at last year’s Mike Clock Open, the Riverhawks had their arms raised in victory only eight times.
This past Saturday at Forest Grove’s Pacific University, that number jumped dramatically.
The Riverhawks won 24 contested matches and crowned the first two individual tournament champions in the program’s history.
Led by returning national tournament qualifiers Esthela Trevino and Mariah Annis — and easily the best incoming class of freshmen the program has seen in its three years — that trend can be expected to continue.
UCC athletic director Craig Jackson takes over head coaching duties after being heavily involved in recruiting since the program’s inception. Asia DeWeese will remain with the program as Jackson’s assistant.
“I’d been recruiting the last couple of years and decided I would come in and be more heavily involved this year and see how it goes,” said Jackson, who competed in wrestling as a high schooler but is in his first year coaching the sport.
Trevino (101 pounds) and Annis (116) are joined by sophomores Sienna Lejeune (170/191) and Jade Piper (170) as the lone returners from the 2018-19 season.
The freshman class is headlined by a multi-time high school national champion in Sarah Conner (143), who won a folkstyle national championship in Fargo, North Dakota, this past summer.
Conner, who wrestled at Central Linn High School in Halsey, and Trevino both won their weight classes at the Mike Clock Open and are undefeated on the season at 6-0 and 4-0, respectively.
The freshman group is filled with local talent, with six of the newcomers hailing from Oregon. Lillian Restrepo (155) was a runner-up at the 2019 OSAA girls’ state tournament for Hillsboro’s Century High, Grace Miller (143) placed third out of Hood River and 116-pounder Faith Strode was third for Hillsboro’s Liberty. Jaesa Ruchti (130, Pleasant Hill), Richelle Rolfe (109, Cottage Grove) and Arleth Serratos-Hernandez (123, Cottage Grove) also prepped in-state.
They are joined by California recruits Mykhala Bagler (123, Elk Grove), Tayah Basped (136, Stockton), Abraham Jolley (155, Orange/El Modena) and Yanhelle Rosales (191, Sylmar).
Tatum Pine (123) hails from Las Vegas’ Palo Verde, and Lexis Vasquez (109) joins from Hurst, Texas.
“With our returning sophomores, this incoming class is a nice one as well. It’s a nice mix,” Jackson said. “We have probably our best recruiting class so far. The girls have a lot of experience.”
That experience showed Saturday at the Mike Clock Open. In addition to Trevino and Conner, Miller (third) and Annis (fourth) also were placewinners for the Riverhawks. Miller recovered from an opening match loss to win four straight — with two pins and a technical fall — to claim the consolation title, while Annis went 4-2 on the day with a pin and a pair of technical falls.
Pine (one tf), Restrepo (one pin) and Piper (tech, pin) each went 2-2 in their brackets, while Strode and Basped (tech) also had victories.
The Riverhawks are joined in the Pacific Northwest by Southwestern Oregon, Big Bend and Grays Harbor at the junior college level, meaning they will get plenty of experience against wrestlers from four-year programs as well.
Umpqua opened the season at a dual meet event in Redding, California, in late October, and the Riverhawks got a taste of that competition right away, dropping a 24-16 decision to NAIA power Southern Oregon University, which is ranked No. 9 nationally. Umpqua later scored a 38-4 victory over Life Pacific University of San Dimas, California.
That step up in competition could lead to an even better finish to the season as the Riverhawks have increased their expectations.
“My expectation is to have some people place at nationals,” Jackson said. “I think we’re pretty skilled and talented at a lot of our weights. Our expectation is to have an All-American in there in some of our weights.”
The Riverhawks will travel to Moses Lake, Washington, to face Big Bend in a dual meet Saturday, Nov. 23, and the next day will compete at the Spokane Open. Umpqua only has two home events on the schedule, the first being a four-team dual meet featuring SWOCC, Grays Harbor and SOU on Dec. 7.