High School Sports

This top wrestler is a natural. Three-time state champ Cameron Guerin ‘took to it like breathing’

Cameron Guerin is unlike any teenage girl you will ever meet.

She is a gifted wrestler on the verge of making history this weekend at Mat Classic, the state championships in the Tacoma Dome.

Guerin has already won three state titles at Davis High School, and has never lost a match during her high school career, going 122-0.

If she can win four more matches in the 125-pound bracket, she will become the first girl to finish undefeated, and will match what Lakeside of Nine Mile Falls’ standout Dalton Young accomplished last season, when he was the first in-state wrestler to finish his prep career undefeated.

And consider what she’s done on the national and international level.

She won the first of four national freestyle crowns at 13. She is also a Pan-American Cadet champion. And last summer, she represented USA Wrestling at the Junior World Championships in Finland, placing fifth in the 112 class.

“Cameron is the most internationally-acclaimed wrestler to come through (Washington),” said Amy Earley, the coach for defending state girls team champion Yelm High School. “But she is also the type of trend setter other girls can look to in this sport, because she shows you what can happen with hard work.

“Only one word comes to mind with my wrestlers about her — respect.”

Guerin highlights a class of eight unbeatable wrestlers for The News Tribune’s 2018 class of “Untouchables.” What makes her different than the other nearly 200 elite wrestlers The News Tribune has highlighted over the past 30 years, is a drive to not only be the best wrestler, but to be an example to others in her sport.

Her goal, she states matter-of-factly, is making it to the 2020 or 2024 Summer Olympics.

And she wants to be the role model for generations of girls wrestlers to come.

TOOK TO WRESTLING ‘LIKE BREATHING’

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Cameron Guerin laughs with her father, Rich, and mother Julie while having a weekly "cheat" lunch with friends at Miner's Drive-In in Yakima, Wash. on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. Guerin sticks to a strict nutrition regimen, but Sundays allow for her to have a full meal with her family. Jake Parrish Yakima Herald-Republic

Some of Guerin’s first memories of mixed-martial arts came from watching her father train Yakima police officers in the basement of the family’s house.

“I just remember grabbing a box of crayons and coloring while my dad taught ... self-defense and striking,” Guerin said.

Rich Guerin has a big presence in Yakima. A Davis graduate, he was a professional MMA fighter from 1997-2006. He also founded Yakima MMA, which has housed some of the region’s most promising up-and-comers.

One of them was former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Meisha Tate, a former Franklin Pierce High School and Central Washington University product who lived with the Guerins while she trained in Yakima early in her professional career.

“We played a lot of board games. Meisha loved to cook and bake,” Cameron Guerin said. “It was like having an older sister around.”

Guerin wasted no time finding the mat in her father’s gymnasium.

“I started at 5,” she said. “I thought it was the most fun thing. But at the first practice I did live wrestling, I was so confused. So I grabbed a kid and started choking him. He started freaking out.”

Her first state folkstyle title came in an all-boys bracket at the Jason Crawford Memorial Wrestling Tournament when she was 11. Guerin has also trained in a variety of MMA disciplines, including boxing, judo, Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

But she sees her future in freestyle wrestling.

“She took to it like breathing, because it was so natural,” said Julie Guerin, Cameron’s mother. “And with Rich competing, we’ve all been used to the grind.”

And what a grind it is.

Every morning, Cameron Guerin is up for 5 a.m. conditioning workouts with Alexio Garcia, the Davis girls’ coach and one of the instructors at Team Takedown freestyle club.

After school, she will practice with the varsity team for a couple of hours before taking off for another workout at either Yakima MMA or at Garcia’s homemade wrestling ring in his garage to drill footwork and technique.

“She does this seven days a week,” Garcia said.

Combine her hard work, talent and success at all levels, no wonder most of the top women’s college wrestling programs are recruiting her, including Simon Fraser, Oklahoma City University, McKendree (Ill.) University, Campbellsville (Ky.) University and King (Tenn.) University.

But last week, Guerin received a bombshell phone call from Terry Steiner, the U.S. women’s national team coach, with an offer to live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after graduation to train full-time.

“I am blessed to have that problem,” said Guerin, who said she won’t make a decision on her future until after Mat Classic. “It is a little stressful.”

A SHINING EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS

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Cameron Guerin grapples with Emma Bruntil, also a member of the national team, during practice at Davis High School in Yakima, Wash. on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. Jake Parrish Yakima Herald-Republic

By now, as one of brightest young stars in women’s wrestling, Guerin has become kind of a big deal in her hometown.

There are USA Wrestling posters of her hanging in Yakima MMA. A few students at her high school developed a customized smartphone accessory case with her photo attached to it. There is even a “CamBam” energy drink sold at a local coffee stand.

The recognition is nice, the soft-spoken Guerin says. But she realizes she could not have reached this point without others.

This winter, to honor her pursuit of a fourth Mat Classic championship, she started a “Destined to Shine” movement to highlight younger girls competing in the sport.

She has been vocal on social media publicizing the importance and growth of girls wrestling throughout the state. She routinely gets thank-you messages on Facebook from the moms of these girls for serving as inspiration.

And at every in-state invitational she’s entered, she has donned the different names of those next-generation wrestlers on the back of her warm-up gear.

“I see their faces when they see me at these tournaments, or wherever they come to watch me,” said Guerin, who plans to appoint a to-be senior girls standout to carry on the movement next season.

“They look at me so highly. And how they talk to me, or how they want me to sign their shoes or shirts, being a role model means a lot.”

But for this weekend, this is her moment.

And after finishing her usual routine of chowing down on half of a Five Guys hamburger, some fries and a water, hopefully she will return Saturday night to end her career as planned — an undefeated four-time state champion.

“Then,” her mother said, “Cameron’s mission will be complete.”

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