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It’s been a long and winding road to the top for Tahlequah junior Ashondra Valencia who reins as the state champion in girls wrestling in the 100-pound weight division. So you have to ask, how does a girl gets involved in the male-dominated sport of wrestling?

“My cousin is Christian Moody who wrestled at OU. As kids in Collinsville, I hung around him a lot and went to some practices and thought it looked like what the boys were doing would be fun. I talked a coach into letting me wrestle one of the boys when I was about four and I headlocked him.”

The road took her from Collinsville where she learned a lot of basics to Tulsa where she wrestled in the Cascia Hall youth program until she moved to Bixby and wrestled in middle school. An injury sidelined her for her freshman year and then there was another move, this time to Wagoner.

“I teamed up with a friend, Alexis Miller, as my wrestling partner my sophomore year and finished second at state. I ended up moving to Tahlequah where my boyfriend lives this year and helped them get their girl’s wrestling program going.”

As a rule, schools are just now in the process of catching up with the growing popularity of girls wrestling and making it a part of their athletic menu. Tiger wrestling coach Travis Kirby talked about its growth in Tahlequah.

“We’ve had a girl’s wrestling youth program in Tahlequah for a while now and as those numbers have grown it wasn’t difficult to get the administration on board with putting it in the school system two years ago. And now with the success Ashondra has had, I think that will help our numbers in the middle school and high school take off. She was a well-established wrestling veteran already when she came to us so there wasn’t a whole lot for us to teach her. We even used her for a couple of dual meets on the boy’s side. I think her accomplishment will open the community’s eyes and let local girls see that if someone from my town can be a state champion, I can do it too.”

Covid-19 coupled with a new program and new teammates made Ashondra’s road to state more difficult this year.

“The pandemic interrupted our practice and dual schedule and made it hard to get into a routine. There weren’t a lot of girls with wrestling experience in Tahlequah but my mom runs the Lady Outlaws wrestling program in the Tulsa area and I was able to practice with them some. I won a tournament in Inola and then regionals and state. I pinned everyone I faced except for a 2-0 win in the state semifinals.”

For schools and girls thinking of getting into wrestling, Ashondra has a thought based on her own experience.

“I think girls and boys should practice together when they’re young. I know it helped me, particularly as the boys started getting stronger, to improve my skills.” 

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