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Oregon City HS junior hoping for title win at girls state wrestling tournament

Emma Baertlein
Emma Baertlein(KPTV)
Updated: Feb. 21, 2020 at 6:01 AM PST
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OREGON CITY, OR (KPTV) - The Oregon high school state wrestling tournament is one week away, and this will be the second full-year of sanctioned girls wrestling in the OSAA as participation numbers continue to grow.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in America right now, women’s wrestling,” said Na’Tasha Umemoto, Oregon City High School girls wrestling head coach and men’s assistant.

16-year-old Emma Baertlein is a pioneer at Oregon City High School.

“It’s just a way to escape from school and stuff like that. It’s my passion,” said Baertlein.

Passionate on the mats since the age of four, Baertlein is the first state placer in school history - finishing fourth and second in the 100-pound weight class the past two years.

“I’m kind of scrappy,” Baertlein said. “Other people aren’t very scrappy.”

Affectionately known as “Baby Shark,” the scrappy junior has swam with the big fish and proudly displays her battle scars.

“Bruises and stuff, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got this black eye and everybody is freaking about it and like, ‘Oh, you got a black eye, you’re so scared and small,’” said Baertlein. “I don’t focus on it - I got it, I move on. It’s fine.”

Baertlein is more than fine on match day, losing just twice this season helping normalize the standard for her fellow female wrestlers.

“I just try to pus them and let them know that there’s not, they can’t. They can do anything. They can come here and wrestle with the boys and do a male-dominated sport but maybe even do it better than them,” Baertlein said.

“She is a sponge. She comes in the room, she soaks up everything and it’s just been phenomenal to watch her growth,” said Umemoto.

An accomplished wrestler at David Douglas High School, Coach Umemoto spent five years in the army before coming back home.

“I actually have a piece back because when I was in the military all of those years, I wasn’t able to be involved,” said Umemoto.

Umemoto’s father, Bobo Umemoto, championed girls wrestling in Oregon while she was away on duty.

“My dad is actually the one who started the movement back in ‘05 when I graduated, so to see it hit fruition, the numbers are insane,” Umemoto said.

Over 550 girls recently competed in the north and south regionals.

“We had girls that were placing in some of the boys’ districts but not placing even in the girls’ regionals, so the girls talent and the technique level is higher than expected,” said Umemoto.

In addition to her work with the pioneers, Umemoto is in her first full year as director of the Oregon Women’s Wrestling team where Baertlein is a member.

“This sport does not discriminate at all. Just come and try it,” said Umemoto. “It has made me who I am. I couldn’t be more thankful that I was able to do this sport because it has really made everything in life pretty easy. Being a spouse, being a mother, being in the military, nothing is harder than what we went through in the room.”

Hard work pays in the mat room and the classroom, Baertlein carries a GPA above a 4.0 by taking AP and Honors classes.

“It’s just how my brain works, honestly. People can procrastinate homework and stuff like that but when I get it, I do it to the best of my abilities,” said Baertlein. “It’s just a part of me. I like working hard in everything I do. I don’t like slacking.”

Baertlein is hoping to put a first place stamp on the OCHS state placer board for 2020 next weekend.

The state wrestling tournament takes place Feb. 28-29 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.