Lees clinches national wrestling championship

Dreams come true for state champion from Washougal

Abby Lees was at a loss for words after what she just accomplished.

The 16-year-old from Washougal captured the USA Wrestling 154-pound Cadet Women’s Freestyle National Championship July 18, in Fargo, North Dakota.

“You dream about it so many times. When it becomes reality, it’s like wow! What’s next?” She said. “I still got two more years. I’m excited to see what happens.”

After a first round bye, Lees defeated Marlene Salinas, of Pacifica, California, 11-0 in the quarterfinals; Deidra Valles, of Diamond Bar, California, 10-0 in the semifinals; and Sarah Engedal, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 9-3 in the championship match.

Randy Lees was on the edge of his seat watching his daughter take down several state champions.

“My favorite part was seeing her do the things we were talking about for years. She shot with her head up,” he said. “I’m not one who tears up very much. The moment she won, I was trying hard not too. I was so proud of her.”

Lees jumped right into the Junior Women’s Freestyle Nationals July 20 and 21, in Fargo. She finished in fourth place.

Lees beat Morgan VanLanen, of Wilson, Michigan, 12-0 in the first round. She pinned Glide, Oregon’s Kyla Keen in 43 seconds and defeated Morgan Becker, of Chatham, Illinois in the quarterfinals. Lees lost in the semifinals, but then beat Abigail Flores, of Frisco, Texas, 10-0 in the consolation semifinals. Lees came up short in her third-place match.

Lees also finished in fourth place at the Body Bar Women’s Nationals May 15 to 17, in Irving, Texas.

To earn the opportunity to wrestle at nationals, Lees had to attend a nine-day Team Washington Intensive Camp. More than 40 girls tried out, but only about half made the team. Lees was thrilled to be one of them.

“You wanted to quit lots of times, but there were people behind you saying it’s going to pay off, and it did,” Lees said. “All that we went through was for team bonding. We all knew each other at the end of it.”

Lees formed a strong bond with teammate Sierra Joner, of Battle Ground.

“She always gave me the best pep talks,” Lees said. “I don’t know if I could wrestle a match not knowing she was there.”

Lees is about to begin her junior year at Washougal High School. She earned her first high school state championship back in February. Although Lees would love to become the first Washougal wrestler to win three state titles, a state team trophy remains her number-one priority.

“Wrestling is a sport that will help you build relationships that will last forever,” Lees said. “If everybody on this team can make it to state, there’s no doubt in my mind we can take that tournament.”

Lees’ national championship is living proof that dreams are worth pursuing.

“It’s a lot heavier than any other medal I’ve ever gotten. A lot bigger too,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine wearing this with a string around my neck.”

When she holds the medal in her hands, she feels the weight of its meaning.

“Just the flashbacks,” Lees said. “All the cheering and all the hugs you get. And getting your hand raised.”