Even as a third-grader, Christina Ordonez had an intimidating reputation.
She earned the nickname Big Hurt while playing youth soccer because of her aggressiveness and constant pursuit of physical contact. As it turned out, Ordonez’s talents were better suited for a different sport. It just took her awhile to find it.
After trying a wide range of sports over the years, including soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball, Ordonez finally discovered her true calling: Wrestling.
In just her second season of competition, she won a state title in February during the girls wrestling championships at the Tacoma Dome. Ordonez barreled through the 152-pound bracket, winning three of her four matches with pins; the other result was an impressive 13-0 major decision. For the season, she was 19-0 versus girls, with 18 pins.
“She demolished everybody in our state,” said Tom O’Hara, Ordonez’s wrestling coach at Lakewood High School. In addition to becoming Lakewood’s first state wrestling champ (male or female), Ordonez was the first Snohomish County girl to win it all. Washington has offered official girls wrestling championships since 2007.
In addition to enjoying newfound self-confidence and notoriety, the Class of 2009 Lakewood graduate earned a chance to keep wrestling competitively.
Ordonez accepted a scholarship from Jamestown College of North Dakota. She will receive $10,000 per year — a combination of athletic and academic aid — from the NAIA school, whose women’s wrestling team is gearing up for its second season.
“I definitely want to see where it’s going to take me,” Ordonez said. “I want to see what it’s like.”
In addition to working part time at a grocery store, Ordonez has been busy with a summer training program that Jamestown College head wrestling coach Cisco Cole sent her. The workouts — a mix of running, lifting weights and wrestling — are designed to prepare her for the next level.
Ordonez plans to leave for Jamestown in mid-August. The first day of school is Aug. 24 and practice begins immediately.
Praising Ordonez’s strength and intensity, Cole said Ordonez will compete in the middle- to upper-weight divisions for Jamestown. She could make a swift impact.
“With the kind of talent she has,” said Cole, “she could step right in and compete for a varsity spot right away, and that’s what we expect her to do.”
Ordonez has high hopes but admits she’s a little uncertain. “I’m intimidated, I’m not going to lie,” she said.
It seems her new teammates should be the ones worrying.
“She’s the strongest girl I’ve ever seen in my life,” said O’Hara, the Lakewood coach.
But in college, strength won’t be enough. Ordonez won’t always be able to overpower foes, like she did in high school.
“She’s not going to be able to do a lot of the same moves based on sheer athletic ability and strength. She’ll have to diversify her style a little bit,” O’Hara said of Ordonez, who trained with and sometimes beat male members of Lakewood’s junior-varsity team.
Encouraged by Chelsea Favro, a friend who wrestled four years for Lakewood, Ordonez turned out for wrestling during her junior year. It was an exciting new challenge, Ordonez said, and it matched her mindset better than other sports that she tried and gave up.
“I’ve always had an aggressive personality,” she said. “It’s probably growing up with (an older) brother because we’d roughhouse a lot.”
Ordonez caused a stir at her first Lakewood wrestling practice, holding her own for several minutes against a boy. Afterward, she noticed coaches were impressed and thought, “Hey, maybe I can be good at this.”
She qualified for the girls state championships her first season, in 2008. A regional runnerup at 135 pounds, Ordonez was disappointed with her showing at state (one win, two losses, no top-six medal). It helped motivate her for her senior year, which ended just the way she expected.
“I was really on the verge of cockiness. I had no doubt in my mind that I would win,” Ordonez said.
Following her state-championship victory, people thought differently of Ordonez in the halls at Lakewood.
Said coach O’Hara, “Nobody would even get into an argument with her after that. ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Christina Ordonez!’”
“Before that,” said Ordonez, “all I had was (good) grades. I was a nerd.”
Mike Cane: email@example.com. Prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.