Sports Zone, Springfield

Thurston girls pin down district title

EUGENE – The top-ranked Thurston Colts girls wrestling team went into the Class 6A/5A Special District 3 Championships at North Eugene High School last Saturday as the clear favorites. Almost 12 grueling hours later, the Colts proved why they’re the No. 1 team, winning their fifth consecutive district title by 58 points over No. 3 Redmond.

“We competed really well; our girls showed up today. I mean, of course, we would have liked to have won every finals match, but this is a tough regional and our job is to get as many qualifiers as we can,” Thurston coach Mike Simons said. “We got 11 through, and we’ve never had more than seven. But now we have to get all those 11 to win matches at state.”

Thurston had seven wrestlers make it to the finals in their weight class, but only two took home individual district crowns — Rubie Winterburn (100 pounds) and Kristal Zamora (140). Thanks to those 11 state championship qualifiers — top four in their respective weight class — the Colts still scored 298 points, though, with Redmond in second with 240 points and No. 5 North Medford — the defending state champs — in third with 131 points.

While the district title is nice, it’s no guarantee going into the state tournament. Last season, the Thurston girls beat out North Medford in the district race, but North Medford got the best of the Colts at state.

“North Medford has three potential state champions, and that’s a lot of points in state. So it’s going to take all 11 of our girls to do some damage at state for sure,” Simons said. “We’ve been preparing for this all season. Our goal for the year — we have banners on the wall in the wrestling room — is to get another white championship banner on the wall. That’s the expectation. So we’ve got two weeks to keep getting better.”

Katelyn Dow (right) takes down Eagle Point’s Alixia Hernandez during the 190-pound finals last Saturday. Dow was one of seven Colts to make an individual final on the day.

Thurston won the state title in 2020 and 2021, but have come in second each of the last two seasons. Now with more qualifiers than ever before, the Colts have a chance to take back the title – an impressive feat since the team graduated the school’s only three-time state champ in Kaylee Annis.

“I just think there’s an expectation from the kids, and we’ve been fortunate. Just looking at this group, we have really good girls, so the new girls that come in, the expectation is to be really good,” Simons said. “That’s the expectation, is to make it to state, and to perform. We coach them hard, but you know, they know we care about them.”

Winterburn and Zamora, along with Kassidy Hadden (125 pounds), are the top returners this season as all three grabbed third at state last year. Now they lead the Colts back to the place where they were upset last season. With the state championships scheduled for February 22-24 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Thurston has two weeks to ensure it fixes last season’s mistakes — something Simons believes his team can do.

“I think our girls will do fine. I think they’ll show up, and we have quite a few returners that are coming back to the state championships, so they know how to get the other girls ready,” Simons said. “We have some pretty good leaders on the girls side, and we got beat in a few matches, but I know our girls are gamers and they’ll show up at the state championships.”

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