Three dozen girls from Oregon and southwest Washington left Portland on Thursday for Detroit for the seventh annual U.S. Girls Wrestling Association national championships.

Among them: Tualatin High senior Samantha Lang, a three-time winner.

Nearly 40 states and geographic regions have championships that produce entrants for the national meet.

'It's growing every year,' says Bobo Umemoto, the Portland coach who organizes the Oregon state championship and is chaperoning the local participants. 'We're set to have a great time.'

Lang is gearing up for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis in May. She'll compete April 6-10 in the U.S. women's championships in Las Vegas, where the top eight finishers qualify for the Olympic Trials.

Lang, who wrestled in Russia in February, is among the top competitors hoping to represent the United States at the Athens Olympics in one of four weight classes. This will be the first Olympics that includes women's wrestling.

Lang says she mostly has moved past her experience at the Pacific-9 Conference district meet. She was hoping to become just the second girl to qualify for the state tournament, but at the district meet a panel of coaches ruled her ineligible for the weigh-in.

'I'm still upset about that, but it's not in my mind all the time,' she says. 'The worst part about that is people ask me what happened all the time and then I have to go through it again.'

Lang is a solid favorite to win this weekend in Detroit.

'Other than my freshman year, there hasn't been too much competition,' she says. 'But there's new girls coming in all the time, so you never know.'

Na'Tasha Umemoto, a junior at David Douglas and Bobo's daughter, also is hoping to qualify for the Olympic Trials. She is bypassing the high school championships to compete in a women's tournament at Battle Ground (Wash.) High School on Saturday and Sunday.

Na'Tasha Umemoto, who did qualify for the state tournament, has spent her spring break at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., working on her wrestling skills.

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