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North's Lopez, Phoenix's Truex take center stage

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PORTLAND — As the annual parade of champions took place here prior to Saturday’s championship round of the wrestling state tournament, the largest ovation from those on hand in Memorial Coliseum came when the girls wrestlers were announced to the crowd.

In the first year that the sport has been officially sanctioned by the Oregon School Activities Association, it was clear how much wrestling fans appreciated the long-coming decision.

After that, North Medford senior Kyleigh Lopez and Phoenix junior Emma Truex made it clear that no one compared to them in their respective weight classes.

Seeking her fourth straight state championship, Lopez’s walk through the arena to her mat took longer than the actual match itself at 115 pounds. The 5-foot-3 dynamo needed only 27 seconds to pin Grant Union freshman Arionna Young — or two seconds longer than it took when the duo faced off in the Southern Division regionals.

“I was really excited for that match,” said Lopez with a smile. “I just wanted to get it done.”

“I like to say I’m the best,” she added, “and being able to say I’m a four-time state champion now kind of solidifies that.”

In a flash she was raising four fingers to signify her fourth title, then leapfrogging a nearby chair to jump into the arms of her awaiting father Phillip Lopez, who resigned as North Medford’s head coach two weeks ago but was ringside to reap the rewards of a lot of hard work put forth by his daughter over the years.

“I give a lot of thanks to my Dad because I couldn’t have done it without him,” she said. “He’s always been by my side and made sure I kept my head in the game and never let me slack off or anything.”

“This season was so mentally tough on me,” added Lopez, “so to be able to put all that aside and just get this done was really relieving.”

Lopez pinned Liberty senior Faith Strode in the semifinal round in 2 minutes, 13 seconds. She enjoyed the atmosphere of finally being able to be singled out during the girls wrestling championship final, but not enough to take it easy against Young to soak it up even more.

“I liked them cheering for my name and saying that I can do it,” said Lopez. “I was thinking about staying out there longer but, you know, pin her fast and that’s the way I want to go out.”

Illness this week kept Truex from being in top form for her final, but she still had more than enough in the tank to score an 11-3 major decision over Hood River Valley freshman Emily Sullenger.

“I came out there with the only thought that I was going to bring it back to Phoenix again and make my team and my family proud,” said Truex. “Going out there, I was just like, ‘I have to win this.’”

Truex went up 2-0 40 seconds into the match, then used a three-point near fall to post a 5-0 edge through one period. After a stalemate second period with Truex in the bottom position, she opened things up again in the third period to go up 10-0 before Sullenger was able to score the first offensive points on Truex all season on a reversal with 49 seconds remaining.

Truex wasn’t threatened thereafter, much to the delight of Phoenix coach Jon Gay.

“She wrestled tough and was able to put up some points right away in the first period, which really ended up being the separator in the match,” said Gay.

“She continues to etch her name in the Oregon history books for wrestling,” he added, “so that’s real big for her and for the program.”

The historic moment certainly wasn’t lost on Truex, who celebrated all her fellow female participants on this night.

“Seeing the sport grow like this, enough to be sanctioned, is really outstanding,” she said. “Being in front of the crowd is a lot of hype and fun but, more so for me, I just love seeing this sport grow. I’ve been in this sport since I was young and I just love it.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry