As the first female wrestler in Taft history to qualify for State, Kadence James has pinned one of her lofty goals on the board — well, she also high-jumped her way to second place at State last month.
Her training regimen might be the reason for her prolific success. Her parents say she was grinding four to five days a week, not knowing if there would even be a wrestling season. The James family travelled to Arizona and Utah for tournaments, where hundreds of wrestlers from around the country competed. Kadence lost all her matches in both states but took home valuable experience. When Co-Head Coach Robb Ellis said wrestling was a go for May, she was still chasing the state title for high jump. James managed to make it to both sports, giving it her all and making it to the track podium.
Her hard work has paid off. James and her teammates had one of the best showings at Districts for Taft as a team, with Kadence, Ryan Sou, Sabrina Campos and Yaneli Hermosillo-Carrasco winning 10 out of 18 matches. Every Taft girl won a match and the Tigers finished 10th out of 50 other schools — a major improvement over last year’s performance when the team went 1-8 and placed 55th out of 60.
“I’m so proud of my teammates and their improvements,” James said. “They blow me away. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without them and my coaches.”
Here’s some fun facts about this Wonder Woman Wrestler:
- James is one of the top eight women’s wrestlers in Oregon for her weight class at 120 pounds.
- She went 11-1 in the regular season, dominating every match. The girl who beat her was up a weight class, and James learned from the loss, taking that knowledge to Districts.
- James has pinned every one of her opponents, with the exception of winning by points in the match to go to State.
- She’s a top chef. James won the Sodexo Future Chefs Competition in 2015.
Parents Justin and Nicole love watching their kid succeed and are extremely proud of Kadence’s athletic ability. They’re also very proud of her straight A’s.
“Proud parents, to say the least.” Justin said. “Our daughter is one hell of an athlete and student. She puts her heart and mind to it and is starting to figure out she can do anything she wants.”
Kadence started wrestling in 2018 as a middle-schooler and has stuck with it ever since. She has wrestled in USA tournaments with former Taft star wrestler Joe Salsbery as her coach. James has also been known to practice new moves on her younger brother, Ezra. Rounding out her sports repertoire are softball and soccer, but her dominating wrestling performance is where her head is right now.
“I never thought I’d make it to state and have that good of a record. Especially in such a short season with not much time to really improve,” she said. “The key definitely is working in the off season, I wanted to improve a little bit everyday.”
Justin hopes his daughter brings home a state title.
“Kadence and I have a favorite quote, ‘If you ain’t first you’re last.’ That is how we attack anything we compete at.”
History-making James hits the mat Thursday, June 24, at Cottage Grove High School.