Sedro-Woolley’s Cora Orton faced plenty of adversity this season both on and off the wrestling mat.
The junior persevered, finishing fifth in the girls’ 110-pound weight class at Mat Classic XXXI.
For her strong season, Orton has been named the Skagit Valley Herald Girls’ Wrestler of the Year.
“I was happy with the end result,” Orton said. “Happy with the way it went at state. I was ranked between seventh and 10th all year and I finished fifth.”
As a whole, Orton said her wrestling season wasn’t her best.
“It was one of my toughest seasons,” she said. “I had a lot of injuries and I struggled with anxiety.”
Orton, who wrestles pretty much year-round and who first picked up the sport as a 6-year-old, found herself foundering in the middle of this season, unsure of herself and panicking when she stepped onto the mat.
It was a situation that caught her off guard.
“I was always pretty chill,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, I felt unprepared, I felt anxious. I was going through this slump, mostly in the second half of the season.
“I started going backwards and I kept going downhill. ... There was some doubt on whether or not I was even going to qualify for state.”
Orton did some self-diagnosis and made the necessary changes.
To combat anxious thoughts, she began walking to the beat of certain music. When her pace exceeds that beat, she knows it’s time to slow down.
“When I’m walking to a certain beat, if I get going too fast I know my anxiety it ramping up,” Orton said. “I know I have to slow down and get it under control.”
She started her anti-anxiety technique several weeks before the state tournament and the results were positive.
“I kicked into gear about a week before the start of the postseason,” she said. “Really, I just wanted to make it to the second day (at state).”
She made the second day and her final match went down to the wire.
If there was a time to be anxious, this was it. But Orton didn’t flinch. She trailed late and rallied for the win at the last second.
“I was down by one, but I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I knew I had it. I knew how hard I’d worked for it. I was really excited about that match.”
Orton took up wrestling after older brother Eli, a wrestler himself, insisted on using her as a practice partner.
“I needed to be able to defend myself against my brother,” she said. “I was tired of just letting him take me down.”
So the younger sister took up the sport, and while the older brother eventually quit, she continued on.
“I kept going,” she said. “I was really grateful for him because if it wasn’t for Eli, I wouldn’t have have got into it.”
As it turned out, Orton was a natural. Once, while in middle school, she won a tournament in a bracket that included only boys.
As for now, she is methodically climbing up the state ladder.
She is a three-time state meet competitor who went 1-2 as a freshman and finished seventh at 100 pounds as a sophomore.
She hopes to make it to the top of the podium her senior season.
“That’s exciting,” Orton said. “I’ve started to get a handle on my anxiety and I now have the methods to deal with it.”