West Linn senior wrestler Destiny Rodriguez is chasing history on the mat.
West Linn’s Destiny Rodriguez is poised to make history.
Indeed, Rodriguez has a chance to become the greatest wrestler in Oregon girls wrestling history.
Rodriguez, 17 and a senior at West Linn High School, has been making that case throughout her career. She is already a three-time Oregon state champion, is the top wrestler in the country at her weight and won a berth on the 2022 U20 World team. Previously, she was a 2021 Junior National Champion, 2019 U15 World Champion, 2019 Cadet National Champion and a 2018 Pan-Am Champion.
“I definitely want to be a four-time state champ for West Linn,” Rodriguez said. “And I just found this out — I’ll be the first official girls four-time state champ (for) Oregon. That’d be amazing. And then I just want to make another World team this year.”
While those goals might sound stratospheric, they seem to be well within Rodriguez’s grasp. During her three previous state tournament appearances, Rodriguez has gone 11-0, including two byes, eight pins (with first-round pins in each of her three championship matches) and one technical fall (in her first state match at 145 pounds in 2020).
“Nobody’s gonna doubt that she’s the best girl wrestler, pound-for-pound, in the state,” said West Linn coach Kevin Keeney, who has also served as Rodriguez’s club coach with All-Phase Wrestling. “That’s not even arguable right now, so if she stays on course and stays healthy and does what she does all the time, she should win her fourth state championship.
“I’m not saying it’s a gimme; you never, never say that. But she’s worked her tail off. I honestly don’t think that anybody’s on the mat more than she is on our team. She works incredibly hard. … It would take a miracle for somebody to upset her.”
Rodriguez’s performance in 2022-23 only supports Keeney’s assertion. Thus far, Rodriguez has amassed a 16-0 record, a result that has included tournament championships in the Tyrone S. Woods Memorial, War of the Roses, Reno Tournament of Champions and Lady Dragon Invitational.
For her part, Rodriguez said that her success is built on hard work, tough competition — with great help from West Linn practice partners Henry Dillingham, Josh Abarca, Riis Hinrichs and Charlie Spinning — and top-notch coaching.
“They challenge me every day and it’s really good,” she said. “Because I’m not always thinking ‘I’m doing everything right.’ They’re just amazing to practice with because I’m just getting better in the (wrestling) room every day.”
The Work Ethic
None of her success surprises Keeney, who’s seen Rodriguez deliver the goods in Oregon and across the country.
“Her strength is her mental toughness,” Keeney said “A lot of people don’t see her get challenged in Oregon, but when I see national-level tournaments, I have watched her where she’s had her back against the wall. And it seems like as the match goes on, the stronger she gets so her mental toughness really comes into play. There are some really, really tough matches against national champions and stuff.”
That mental toughness, Rodriguez said, is borne from hard work in practice and a level of fitness that allows her to stay sharp and on point throughout her matches.
“We have our practices, our two hour-long practices, so we figure if we can do the two-hour part, we can do the six minutes on the mat,” she said.
The Next Level
As a result of her success, Rodriguez has signed on to continue her wrestling career and education in college at McKendree University in Illinois, the third-ranked Division 2 school in the country.
“I know it’s gonna be a good fit,” she said, noting that she previously worked with Bearcats coach Alexio Garcia when she was a member of the national team. “I can trust him with what he’s gonna be showing me and how he’s gonna be taking care of me for the next four years.”
As has been true at West Linn, Rodriguez said she expects to be pushed at McKendree — and she knows it will help make her better.
“The practice partners … (are) really important, especially coming from here,” she said. “(McKendree has) really good girls in the room right now. They’re all trying to work for a national title, they all have the same goals as me, so it’ll be a nice fit going into a room where I know all the girls are gonna be working hard for the same goal.”
The Upper Level
Beyond her own formidable talent, Rodriguez has benefited from her long-term exposure to upper-level coaching, from her mentors at West Linn High School, to her coaches at All-Phase Wrestling, to her work at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, to her time at Beaver Dam RTC at Oregon State and more.
“That’s definitely helped her improve,” Keeney said. “She travels all over to train … so she’s with some of the top-level girls in the country. And she’s working with top-level men in the country, too. All those fields just keep adding, making her a little bit better every time.”
Over time, those experiences have helped make Rodriguez a great wrestler, but they’ve also helped make her a team leader.
Keeney said that Rodriguez has proven her leadership in many ways, sharing insights from her top-level training sessions, putting in the time to support her teammates, giving back to the youth wrestling program in West Linn and much much more.
“She’s just the best of the best,” Keeney said. “She always puts her team first. When there’s a tournament, she comes in and supports her teammates from the very beginning. She’ll show up at seven o’clock in the morning at the school and ride the bus with us and support her teammates. She’s there all day long. There’s just no better teammate.”
“I just love being a part of this team,” Rodriguez said. “Honestly, all the guys are really encouraging. They believe in all of us, not just me. They even push the freshmen to be as good as they can be.”
The Next Challenges
Now, with the 2022-23 high school season racing toward its conclusion — district tournaments are set for mid-February with state the following week — and the U20 World Team Trials due in Spokane, Washington, in April, Rodriguez is edging ever closer to some of the biggest wrestling goals of her young life.
“It’s a single tournament so you get great competition,” Rodriguez said of the World Team Trials. “There’s girls from all over the United States trying to make the World team.”
But whether it’s national-level competition at the World Team Trials or the 2023 U.S. Open in Las Vegas later in April, or the more modest challenge of the Oregon high school state tournament. Rodriguez says she’ll be ready.
“I don’t really know who (I’ll wrestle at state), but I still get nervous,” she said. “Like, the same amount for every match. It’s always the same.”
Whatever level of success Rodriguez has in those tournaments, Keeney knows that Rodriguez will succeed in life.
“She’s just an incredible person. She’s incredible,” he said. “She’s an incredible leader, (even though) she’s not real vocal — she’s kind of shy — but she does lead by example. She works her tail off. She’s the epitome of a world-class athlete on and off the mat.”