VALE — Malheur County’s first girls wrestling state champion is now one step closer to defending her crown as Vale sophomore Tyler Richardson finished in first place at the OSAA Girls North Regional Tournament on Saturday at Century High School in Hillsboro.
At 140 pounds, Richardson stormed through her competition, finishing every match via pinfall with only two of those matches making it to the third period (against Ontario’s Maria Diaz in the second round and against Glencoe’s Elbereth Ragsdale in the championship match).
After steamrolling her way through most of her female competition as a freshman and finishing with a 15-2 record, Richardson seemed poised to run through the competition in the 2019-2020 season. But Richardson had a major lesson to learn in her sophomore year: don’t be lazy.
At the Rollie Lane Invitational, Richardson was upended by Taylor Ohlson of Mountain View (in Oregon) in a 1-0 decision.
“At Rollie Lane, she was kind of in my head,” Richardson said. “I went out there kind of lazy, too. And I would go out there like, ‘Oh, this girl’s pretty good,’ but I didn’t think I had to wrestle as tough as I needed to wrestle.”
Two weeks later, Richardson ran into further trouble at the Othello Lady Huskies Invite as she picked up losses to Hanford’s Mirinda Enderlin and Wenatchee’s Isabella Andreini, both of Washington, and fell to fifth place. Richardson said not medalling at Othello was a big wake up call.
“Othello was really hard for me. I’ve never placed lower than third and I won that tournament last year and I had beat the girl that I lost to already at Rollie Lane and I turned around and lost to her. So that was hard. I lost another match in Othello because I sat out completely lazy and she sucked me back and it was just downhill from there.”
Richardson would later beat Enderlin 4-0 in the fifth-place match.
“After all that, I just tried to really get it in my head that I cannot be lazy when I go out there, like you don’t get this season back. You don’t get your losses back. So just go out there and give it everything you have. You have no time to make a mistake and give them the opportunity to capitalize. You have to get after it and just get it over with.”
Since Othello, Richardson is on an 8-0 run, winning every match via pinfall except for one (a 5-0 decision over Timberline’s Mercedes Ellison in the Jaybird Memorial finals on Jan. 25).
On top of making sure that she’s not allowing herself to be lazy in her matches, Richardson said keeping her confidence up has been a big focus for her as state nears.
“Especially in my finals match, that’s all I could tell myself when I was warming up,” Richardson said. “I was like, ‘You can’t be lazy here. You need to go into state seeded first. You can’t lose to this girl. You don’t want her to be in your head. I want to be in her head. I need everything to go right for me and in order to do that, I cannot go out there and create any openings for her. I can’t be lazy.’”
While Richardson said she’s anticipating a similar game plan of staying aggressive when the state tournament starts at the end of the month, she said she’s expecting to be the best Tyler Richardson anyone’s seen all year.
“Especially for the girl that I wrestled in the finals at districts. When we got off the mat, she said she appreciated me making her a better wrestler and she said she was ready for a rematch at state and that was like a little fire under me. Like, I’ll be ready for you, too,” Richardson said. “So I’m not just staying in good shape up here. I’m working on takedown after takedown after takedown, which I should have been doing at the beginning of the season, but I was not ready for that. I was not in shape enough. Now I’m finally in shape enough to where I can be shooting, shooting, shooting. My legs are in shape now so I don’t get gassed. I can just start the first round with a good takedown and work from there.”
Looking back on the regular season, Richardson said she’s disappointed that she took those losses that she did, but she’s happy that she learned her lesson about being lazy in her matches when the tournaments didn’t affect her placing at the state tournament.
“I could have won both of those tournaments, honestly, I shouldn’t have lost a match. But it’s good that I did because I’d rather have that happen there than turn around and go to districts and have that happen, or at state, even worse,” Richardson said.
The OSAA State Championship will begin on Feb. 28 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. Richardson will likely be the No. 1 seed for the 140-pound weight class.