“Why would you want to wrestle? Weren’t you scared?” These are two of the many questions I’m asked when people find out I am the only female on my high-school wrestling team. Many comment that they would never have the guts to be a wrestler, let alone be the only girl. The fact is that once my mind is set on something, I am determined. I knew there would be those who would frown on a girl participating in “a man’s sport,” but I did not worry because I know I had made a good decision.
The idea of wrestling never occurred to me until seventh grade when I was faced with the choice of creating a dance routine or wrestling. Dancing in gym class was a little more girly than I could handle, so I chose wrestling and immediately fell in love. As it turns out, joining the wrestling team has been one of the best decisions of my life. This sport has taught me so much and given me a different perspective on many things. Participating in a male-dominated sport has actually opened doors for me.
Qualities of discipline, patience and, believe it or not, grace have resulted because of wrestling. During each season, a wrestler must deal with the pain of defeat, the frustration of overcoming injury, the challenge of maintaining weight, and the constant struggle to keep up with schoolwork while getting enough sleep. You have to keep your head on straight and priorities in order when you need to get up at 5 a.m. to run with the team, go to school, lift weights, have wrestling practice for three hours, go home to do hours of homework, sleep for (at the most) five hours, and then start all over again. One of my coaches always says, “You only get out what you put in.” This theory has been proven true in every part of my life. To excel, you need to put forth an effort worthy of those results.
A lot of my most genuine friends are teammates. Before I spent every day in a wrestling room with boys, I never realized, or appreciated, just how different the opposite sex is. I have found that boys lack the qualities that annoy me about girls. While they may not always be sensitive to feelings, they aren’t easily offended. I used to have difficulty talking to people and being comfortable with myself but watching how the guys interact helped me overcome some of my social anxiety.
Once the guys realized I wasn’t going anywhere, they accepted me as one of them. They joke and tease, but always in good fun. I am forced to have a good time, which has taught me not to be so serious and critical. They taught me that it’s okay to be myself; the worst that could happen is I will get razzed a bit. I now know when to let my guard down to have fun and when to get serious.
If I had not joined the wrestling team, I never would have gotten into weightlifting, which is mandatory for wrestlers. At first, I was skeptical, but once I got used to the equipment and saw how strong I was getting, I was addicted. Now, I lift all year round and compete as a power lifter. Weightlifting is a lifelong sport that keeps me in shape and provides me with an outlet for stress. I have made even more friends in the weight room.
I really owe a lot to wrestling. It has led me to a new group of amazing friends and helped mold me into a better, more well-rounded person. Things won’t always be easy and there will be obstacles, but if you want something, and what you know is right, you need to go for it. You’ll never get anywhere if you constantly worry about the “what ifs.” Wrestling has taught me to roll with the punches life throws you.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.