MOUNT VERNON — Burlington-Edison wrestler Cora Orton overcame obstacles this season.
The senior battles severe anxiety that can become overwhelming and paralyzing. She’s learning to control it, but admits to it being a continuing battle.
And being at Mat Classic XXXII at the Tacoma Dome was about as challenging a situation as Orton could find herself in.
“Big crowds, big city, loud noise,” Orton said. “I had to try and zone all that out. I was so anxious before my first match. But (assistant coach) Dean (Myers) settled me down. But I wasn’t doing great. But he has a gift. Somehow he calmed me down and I was able to wrestle.”
Orton earned a third-place state finish in the 120-pound classification.
For her efforts, Orton is the Skagit Valley Herald Girls’ Wrestler of the Year for the second consecutive year.
“I was certainly disappointed,” Orton said. “I was going for first. But I am happy the way it happened.
“I had a goal to start. And when that didn’t work, I switched it from finishing first to third since that was the highest I could. I achieved my goal and I am all right with that.”
Orton finished the season with a 27-3 record. More impressive is that until Mat Classic she hadn’t allowed a point to be scored on her in the postseason.
This season she made her first appearance in a state semifinal, and although she lost she was pleased with how she bounced back.
“It was (my) first time (in the semifinals),” she said. “I was so focused on making it to the finals. But I had to pick myself up after that and prepare to wrestle again. It was hard.”
But the Tigers coaching staff, including Windy Lovejoy and Myers, were there for Orton.
“My coaches helped me so much,” she said. “They told me the hardest spot to wrestle was for third place. Then they told me to go get that place and that I could do it.”
Orton wrestled for Burlington-Edison this season after moving from Sedro-Woolley. She was happy with the reception she received at her new school.
“It was inviting,” she said. “I felt very wanted. It was open and loving. It was a family and they made me feel like I belonged. And I made a lot of friendships I didn’t think I was going to make.”
Orton admitted to being nervous about entering the Tigers wrestling room. So much so she had considered not competing this season.
“That first day, I was terrified,” she said. “But everyone came up and was super welcoming.”
And Orton said it was all due to Lovejoy and Myers.
“I found myself in a lot better place because of them,” Orton said. “I didn’t love the sport anymore. They showed me why and how I could love the sport again.”
And she thrived.
A big reason why was due to her wrestling partner, Noemi Librado. Orton said she is grateful to Librado.
“She was a great partner,” Orton said. “She is only a sophomore, but had a lot of interest in the sport. I was lucky to have her.”
The year was one Orton can look back on with pride.
“I became a better wrestler this year,” she said. “I was able to complete moves 100% of the time. When I messed up, it was funny instead of disappointing.
“And wrestling was fun again. It was a breath of fresh air. I was having fun. I was enjoying it.”
Orton is looking for that to continue at the college level with an ultimate goal of wrestling in the Olympics.
“That’s something I’ve wanted since I was 6,” she said of her Olympic aspirations. “Wrestling in college is the next goal.”