Eureka girls step up to the challenge, reap rewards

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Photos by Jennifer Johnston – Eureka’s Kelli Johnston in action at this year’s state championships.

By Ray Hamill — Eureka senior Aracely Rendon-Gomez has signed a letter of intent to wrestle collegiately at Eastern Oregon University next year, as a challenging season paid big dividends for the Loggers.

The Eureka girls continue to establish themselves as an up-and-coming force on the mats with a third-place finish at this year’s North Coast Section championships last month, on the way to sending three wrestlers on to the state meet for the second time.

And with five of their seven NCS medalists expected to return next year, the Loggers are only going to grow stronger.

“We’ve got a very committed group,” head coach Cecil Wilson said.

The Loggers, however, will lose Rendon-Gomez, who has enjoyed a stellar prep career wrestling at Eureka High, placing sixth at the state meet as a senior.

Rendon-Gomez, who was seventh at state a year ago, will now take her talents to Eastern Oregon after receiving a scholarship to wrestle for the NAIA school.

“She’s worked hard for it,” Wilson said of Rendon-Gomez, who battled through an ankle injury at this year’s state championships.

Teammates Helena Rogers and Kelli Johnston each also qualified for this year’s state meet, with each also winning matches there and gaining tremendous experience as juniors.

“Both of them are really strong and committed,” Wilson said.

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Photos by Jennifer Johnston – Eureka’s Helena Rogers in action at the state championships.

The talented and hard-working duo will be back next year for a team that should be even stronger.

This year, Wilson and assistant coach Thomas Gowing challenged their wrestlers by taking them to tough tournaments all season long, a strategy that appears to have paid off by better preparing them for the tougher postseason.

“Our goal was to challenge the girls this year, and both Thomas and myself set up a challenging season,” Wilson said. “And that resulted in us being third at sections.”

The head coach feels very optimistic about the future of the program and the direction the Loggers are headed.

“We feel good about our system, and I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity going into next season,” he said. “The girls have bought in.”

This year’s team, the coach said, was a particularly cooperative roster to coach.

“It was a fun season,” he said. “We had no issues at all with this team. The girls bought into our character development and turned out to be a great group of girls. These girls really liked each other and that made a big difference.”

Wilson also paid tribute to his assistant coach, whom he says has played a major role in helping develop the program.

Categories: Eureka, Sports, Wrestling

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