Gutches, Hall are two of a kind for North
Estella Gutches and Sadie Hall may both be three-sport athletes at North Medford High, but it’s been on the wrestling mat where they have become kindred spirits.
“I first got to know her because we both did wrestling,” said Hall, who also plays volleyball and softball. “I did the sixth-grade academy when she was in eighth grade, and it was always fun watching her.”
With both at the high school level now three years later, nothing has changed outside of their respective ages.
Gutches, a junior, and the freshman Hall are two peas in a pod in the wrestling room even though their fall and spring sports seasons look vastly different. When it comes to wrestling, though, their mindsets are the same, and it’s that kind of commonality that has made the duo so successful heading into Saturday’s Southern Region District Tournament in Cottage Grove.
“It’s really cool getting to know her better,” said Hall. “I just think through next year, too, I’ll be able to learn a lot from her.”
The respect and admiration for each other shines through whenever the other one is mentioned.
With two years separating them, it’s only natural to think that it’s a big sister and little sister kind of vibe.
And when you hear them talk about the other’s accomplishments, it’s clear just how much they appreciate what the other has done.
“It’s been cool because Sadie came in and we already had a girls (wrestling) team,” said Gutches, who’s also a standout performer on the Black Tornado’s cross-country and track teams. “When I came in, we only had like three other girls on the team, but this year we have 12 or so. It’s cool that she’s seen that. Plus I’ve known Sadie for a while.”
The relationship between the two goes back to middle school, and Hall has definitely identified Gutches as somebody she looks up to.
As much as Hall says that former North standout and former four-time state champion Kyleigh Lopez is “the role model” for her, Gutches isn’t too far behind. Before becoming teammates, Hall went to duals simply to watch Gutches, the former trying to absorb as much as she could just by watching the latter compete.
“We don’t go together a lot because there’s a little bit of a size difference,” said Gutches, “but we definitely push each other up in the (wrestling) room. If I see her working hard, it pushes me to work harder and vice versa. It’s also cool because after practice we can go and drill different moves with each other and work on different stuff. We definitely both help each other.”
The duo strives to be driving forces for a North girls wrestling team that has its sights set on big things at regionals and state later this month.
“I’m feeling excited,” said Gutches. “I can’t wait. I feel like last year since we didn’t get a full season, a normal season, I’m excited we actually got to compete this year and wrestle girls before the regional tournament.”
Gutches and Hall have set the bar high, and with the way that they have wrestled at the prep level, who can blame them?
Gutches finished third at state at 105 pounds as a freshman in 2020, then took first at 110 pounds at the Oregon Wrestling Association’s culminating week tournament to cap her abbreviated sophomore season last June.
This season, Gutches is wrestling at 120 pounds and has bounced back and forth between girls tournaments and wrestling against boys — with plenty of success on both fronts.
Gutches has an 18-5 record this season, but has gone a perfect 11-0 against girls opposition. This past weekend, Gutches finished third while wrestling against boys at the Rogue Valley Championships.
Getting Gutches consistent girls matches hasn’t always been easy, according to North Medford head coach Tony Champion, and has created an opportunity to test herself against the boys a good amount of the time.
It’s something that Gutches has felt like has been beneficial as she readies for what is hopefully another run at a state title.
“I feel it’s definitely helped me wrestling against boys,” said Gutches, “because I can wrestle against people with different styles and usually guys are a lot stronger. When I wrestle girls, like at the regional tournament, I feel like I have an advantage on them.”
“It’s also helped because I get to try out some new stuff and see how it works on different people,” added Gutches. “There’s a limited amount of girls that you can wrestle around here, so it’s been cool to wrestle against guys and see how different people react to different moves.”
Although not as frequently as Gutches, Hall has also bounced between boys and girls competition this season.
For Hall, who Champion describes as “one of the toughest kids I’ve been around,” she’s not one to hide what she’s trying to accomplish during her time at North, either.
“I’m trying to go after what Kyleigh Lopez did and trying to be a four-year state champ,” said the soft-spoken Hall. “At regionals, I would love to win and I am going to put in as much effort as I can. That’s all it comes down to.”
Hall is 14-3 this season, with two of those losses coming to Crater junior Sienna Caruso, who has become a friendly rival for the North freshman. The two have wrestled against one another four times this season, with Caruso getting wins in the last two matchups.
“It’s cool because Sienna’s a junior and I’m sticking in there with juniors and I’m a freshman,” said Hall. “Sienna’s a nice person, even off the mat. She’ll get in there and wrestle you hard but she’ll talk to you after matches.”
Champion, who was the first-ever women’s wrestling coach at Southern Oregon University when the Raiders started the program in 2015, said Hall could drop down to the 100-pound weight class to give her a better path to a potential state title.
“I think she’s got a straight shot to get into the state finals at 100,” said Champion, “but I believe whichever weight class she goes at she’s going to be top three. I think she’s got a great opportunity.”
On the cusp of a trip north, Champion certainly likes where the Black Tornado is at entering the regional tournament.
Besides Hall and Gutches, Champion has wrestlers like Isabella Jaime (130) and Isabella Prinslow (145) who also have a chance to place at regionals.
“I think the girls are wrestling really well,” said Champion. “We came out of the (Oregon Classic) a couple of weeks ago a little beat up. We’re coming out now with pretty much everybody healthy. We’ve concentrated on being healthy and well-rested (this week). I feel just as good going into this regional tournament as any team ever. I think we’re going to be in shape.”
With Gutches and Hall leading the way, there’s a good reason why Champion is feeling the way he is about the Black Tornado’s success Saturday and beyond.
“They’re both physically in great condition,” said Champion of Gutches and Hall. “Mentally, they’re both spot on. I think they’re both focused and they’ve been focused on where they want to be at the end of the season for this entire season. I know that they both are ready.
“From the very beginning of the season, I’ve felt like I have two girls, at least, who can contend for individual state championships. It’s definitely in the realm this year.”
Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.