Ontario’s Hernandez keeps eye on state title

ONTARIO—As her high school career wraps up, Ontario’s Hannah Hernandez is Oregon’s top-rated wrestler in the state in her 145-weight class. She is on track to rack up 100 wins.

Hernandez’s stellar season saw her take first place at the Rollie Lane Girls Invitational in Idaho and the Hood River Girls Invitational and second at the Othello Lady’s Invite in Othello, Washington.

A senior, who is 34-4 this season, was Ontario’s lone grappler at the state championship last year, where she brought home a second-place trophy.

What’s even more exceptional about Hernandez is that the pandemic disrupted her first two years of competing.

Hernandez, who did not begin wrestling until high school. Until then, she had been involved in other sports, mainly the Field of Dreams softball league, a feeder program for high school.

Ruben Hernandez, her father and the Ontario High School girls wrestling coach, said when she was younger, the family would put her in her brother Ruben’s wrestling singlet and shoes because they both fit her.

Hernandez said before she got into wrestling seriously, she took every chance she could to ride on the team bus with her brother Ruben, who is two years older and wrestled for the Ontario boys team, and her dad, then coach for the boys team. She said she had always imagined herself competing.

When her dad told her about a new local wrestling league that included girls competing against girls, she said she had “no hesitation” about joining with her sister.

“From that day,” she said, “from my first practice, I knew I wanted to keep wrestling and all my plans changed.”

“We told her that if you’re going to do it, you have to do it. Put the passion in and really put the time and effort into it if that’s what you want to do,” her father said. “She has done it.”

He said he doesn’t need to remind Hernandez to condition and practice every day.

She dreams of winning a state championship after qualifying at the district tourney in the next couple of weeks. Last year, she took second in her weight class. From there, Hernandez has her sights set on wrestling competitively in college,

Hernandez had as one goal to go undefeated this season.

When she lost, her father said, they evaluated what happened on the mat and what lessons could be learned in not winning the match.

From there, he said, she had had until midnight to be down about it. After that, it was time to move on. 

“This is not our goal,” he said. “The next day, we’re ready to go again.”

He said college is highly likely after she graduates. Several colleges are interested in having her wrestle.

For her, two things are important when looking at colleges. She said she’d prefer to attend a college with women on the wrestling staff. Having a connection with another woman in a leadership role on a team makes a difference for her.

Hernandez connected with a few female coaches at a wrestling camp.

“I think that’s what she’s looking for is somebody that will push and inspire her and get her above where she’s at,” said her father. 

The other factor, she said, is a school with a good nursing program. Her career goal is to become a neonatal nurse caring for newborn babies facing health challenges.

Her father’s prompts to other wrestlers apply to her as she pursues a state goal: “Go get what you want.”

She said that means showing up to practice each day, getting up at 4 a.m. to run on the treadmill, eating right, and getting rest.

Hernandez said she passes that sentiment along to her teammates, who are mostly first- and second-year wrestlers.

“I always tell them that if you miss a day of practice,” she said, “there is someone out there trying to beat you.”

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