Canby High School Mat Mastery

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Wrestling Runs in Emilia Ensrud’s Family

Star Students: Emilia Ensrud
Sponsored by Roth Heating & Cooling
By Ty Walker, Contributing Writer

It must be in her DNA. Her father was a wrestler. Her brother was a wrestler. Her uncle was a wrestler. Emilia Ensrud comes from a long line of wrestlers. So it should come as no surprise that this freshman phenom from Canby High School carries on the Ensrud family genes.

Emilia shows real passion for the sport. She began competing on the mats when she was a seventh-grader. Three years later, at the end of this season, she wrestled through the ranks of one of the toughest divisions to take third place at the 2023–24 OSAA State Championships.

The strong finish at the state meet didn’t come easily for Emilia. After losing her first match in the 115-pound class against No. 1-seed Layla Morris by decision 12–8, she won four in a row to fight her way to third.

Emilia finished her phenomenal freshman season with a 30–3 record, which also included second place at the regional competition by major decision. Her experience at the state meet at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland was the highlight of the year, Emilia said.

“It was a really cool experience,” Emilia said. “It was a good team bonding experience because we got to hang out with our team for two days. It was pretty neat just going to the tournament with the girls. It was fun.”

The 2023–24 season was a groundbreaking year for high school girls wrestling. It was the first season the Oregon School Activities Association sanctioned it as an official girls’ sport.

Prior to this year, area high schools had girls wrestle as individuals in co-ed programs but they didn’t field OSAA-sanctioned official teams for girls. Canby girls have wrestled for about five years. There were 11 girls on the team this season, up from just three a year ago.

Girls wrestling is the fastest-growing high school sport in the nation, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). In September, the NFHS reported a 55% increase in participation numbers from 2021–22 to a record total of 49,127 participants.

Emilia is happy to be one of the local pioneers for this trending sport.

“It’s neat being part of the first wave,” she said. “It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., I think. Lots of girls are showing up for it, so that’s pretty cool.”

Canby girls wrestling coach Erika Irwin said that Emilia brings youth and experience to the team. You can attribute that to both her family and hard work.

“She comes from a line of wrestlers,” Irwin said. “Her dad, brother and uncle are all wrestlers. She came in with a fair amount of experience. She was committed every day. She is always working hard.

“She loves the detail and techniques. She’s a really technique-driven wrestler. She likes to get into the nitty gritty and learn as much as she can.”

Exposed to the sport at such a young age, it didn’t take long for Emilia to develop her innate wrestling talents. But wrestling takes a lot of tough discipline as well as natural ability.

“It’s a unique sport,” Emilia said. “It requires a lot of mental and physical toughness. Once you start, it’s kind of a sport you get caught up in doing and you want to keep doing it. It’s a fun sport.”

Her coach praised Emilia for her strong work ethic and leadership skills.

“Emilia works hard and takes every opportunity given to her to get better and improve,” Irwin said. “She shares her passion and talent with her teammates, often spending time helping them improve. She is a consistent, dependable, overall well-rounded athlete, teammate and student.”

Wrestling is just one of many sports this 4.0 student athlete enjoys. She also runs cross-country and track for the Cougars. Outside of school, she finds time for other pursuits, such as gymnastics, aerial dance and acro dance.

Perhaps this gifted athlete’s leadership skills may be traced back to her family DNA. Her father, Jeremy Ensrud, is the Canby High School athletic director.