Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, and Katelyn Lemmon is part of that movement.
Lemmon, one of two girls on the Echo/Stanfield wrestling team, signed a letter of intent Thursday to wrestle at Eastern Oregon University.
“I emailed them, and they called me,” said Lemmon, who plans to major in pre-med. “I’m nervous. I haven’t been wrestling very long, and it will be way harder.”
In fact, this season is Lemmon’s first on the mats. She competes at 130 pounds, but will occasionally wrestle someone heavier just to get in a match.
“She is definitely one of the hardest workers in the room,” Echo/Stanfield coach Monte Toombs said. “She has mental toughness, and puts in 110% all the time. With her work ethic and better practice partners in college, she will do well. I think she will surprise the Eastern coaches.”
The EOU program, under the direction of first-year coach Michael Ayala, is in its fourth season. The Mountaineers had two NAIA All-Americans last season.
Lemmon, a senior at Stanfield, has watched her younger brother Isaiah wrestle since he was 4 years old. He is a freshman this year.
“It looked like fun,” Lemmon said. “I wish I would have done it sooner, but I didn’t want to wrestle guys.”
According to Toombs, Lemmon is the first Echo/Stanfield wrestler, boy or girl, to move on to the college level.
“I wish we would have had her a lot younger and been able to get her more practice time and good practice partners,” Toombs said. “She will see success with her wrestling at Eastern.”
Last summer, Lemmon went to a team camp at EOU with the rest of the Cougars. There, she was able to compete with other girls.
“She beat all the girls up there but one,” Toombs said.
Lemmon, who also runs cross-country and track, will compete in a tournament in Heppner on Saturday, and then will compete in the regional qualifier the following weekend at Century High School in Hillsboro. The top four in each weight class will advance to state.
Whereas Washington has a strong girls wrestling program, complete with 16-person brackets in 14 weight classes at the state tournament, Oregon had its first official girls state tournament last year. Each weight class had just four competitors. This year, there will be eight per weight class.
There are approximately 140 schools in Oregon with girls wrestling, but most have just a handful of athletes.