Local students put CG wrestling on the map

The referee lifts Raina Herzog’s arm in victory, representing team Oregon PHOTO C/O RICH HERZOG

For a pair of Cottage Grove wrestlers, the wrestling season hasn’t stopped.

While the high school season officially ended in February, Cottage Grove’s Raina Herzog and Adelle Kent have continued in the sport and both wrestled at junior nationals in Fargo, North Dakota earlier this month. At the tournament, Herzog finished second in her weight class.

“It’s like any sport, it’s hard work, it’s dedication - willing to put the time in. The girls that put the time in during the summer time, those are the ones that you are going to see successful during the high school season come state in February,” said Natasha Umemoto, the women’s wrestling coach for the state of Oregon.

Herzog and Kent, who will both be juniors at the start of next school year, competed on the Oregon team under Umemoto. The pair of girls qualified to be one of the 34 girls on the team at a tournament this past March. For this tournament, wrestlers compete in freestyle wrestling as opposed to folkstyle which is used at high schools in Oregon. Before the 25-hour bus ride to Fargo, the team spent a week preparing at Elmira High School.

“We get everybody equated to each other, and we spend a week training and making sure the girls are in shape,” said Rich Herzog, Raina’s dad, who is an assistant coach on both the CGHS team and the Oregon team. “We own them for one week.”

During the high school season Raina Herzog, in her first year of high school wrestling, won the state title at the 235 weight class. But at nationals, she was now competing in the 200 weight class.

“That weight class is actually more fitting for her. And in this case, she did it right. She took the time, you know, so it was a little over three months of working the weight off and it wasn’t a crash weight cut. So she was healthy, she was strong and she wrestled well,” said Rich Herzog.

Going into the tournament, Raina didn’t know what to expect.

“My goal coming into the tournament was maybe to place because I didn’t know where I sat, I had no idea. But I came into the tournament thinking I just want to place, I want to win my first match, then my second match,” she said. “I just had these little tiny goals because I didn’t know what my potential was.”

After rallying back in the first round against a wrestler from Iowa, Herzog cruised into the quarters and then the semifinals. Executing a move that her and her dad had practiced in the mat room – a front headlock paired with an underhook while turning your opponent that the Herzogs dubbed the “head scoopy” – Raina Herzog had wrestled her way to the finals.

In the finals she lost to Oklahoma’s Olivia Brown who has won multiple titles on this stage.

“I think losing the finals was actually a really good experience for me beacuase it gives me that experience of this girl is better than me, I want to be as good as her,” said Raina. “Going second was a really good experience because it boosts my confidence, it showed me that I’m good enough to be up on the podium. But it also pushes me to want to be better.”

For Kent, who has been home for a total of six days this summer because of wrestling, she entered team camp at Elmira with a shoulder injury from a tournament in Idaho.

“I was in the finals and I was beating the girls and I went to throw her and I landed on my shoulder and I sprained muscles – the major muscle running through my neck and my collar bone,” said Kent. “It was a gnarly one.”

Trying to fend off the injury bug, Kent was injured again in the quarterfinals at nationals and now has a possible ACL tear and might be out for the next high school wrestling season.

“I’ve had two knee surgeries myself so I know exactly what boat she’s in,” said head coach Umemoto. “I’ve been in that boat twice now so some tips and tricks we talked about ave her some expectation management. At that age you think it’s devastating, you think you’re never going to come back but she can come back stronger.”

Despite the injury, Kent is now in South Africa as part of the cultural exchange wrestling program in Oregon. Run by Thurston head coach Mike Simons, the program takes wrestlers from around the state to a different country each year. And while Kent won’t have the opportunity to wrestle, she is looking forward to learning about the sport on an international level.

“Even just in our own country there are different styles so I’m so excited to see how different people in the world wrestle. So if you go to Russia, they’re just brutal. Just non-stop,” said Kent. “But I’ve never even heard of South Africa wrestling so I’m excited to see it.”

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