Skyline High School sophomore wrestles her way to state
June 5, 2012
By Matt Carstens
For Skyline High School sophomore Kara Alden, it’s not that she’s a girl participating in a sport dominated by guys or that she’s the only female on a male wrestling team. Rather, it’s the fact that her desire to compete and her passion for the sport have allowed her to succeed despite a lack of experience and physical disadvantages.
“Wrestling guys is harder as a girl since we don’t have as much muscle mass as they do,” Kara said. “You have to have really perfected technique to do well against a guy.”
On a daily basis and throughout the season, she faces adversity in the form of her male opponents. At practice and during dual meets, her options are often limited to wrestling just guys, unless it’s the postseason.
But for Kara, the option to wrestle both guys and girls presents a unique catch-22. Facing girls means a higher probability of winning. Wrestling guys, however, is where she can gain the most experience and learn technical moves she wouldn’t otherwise be afforded.
Although her win-loss record in two years of competition tells one story, her wrestling ability and results reveal another.
In two years of wrestling she has advanced to the state tournament twice, finishing sixth overall in her division at the Mat Classic XXIV earlier this year.
Nervous because she’d be the only girl, Kara convinced a female friend to join the team during her freshman year. Now a sophomore, she has accepted the “only” position and so have her teammates and coaches.
“My teammates are very supportive. We’re all in the same boat together, go through the same issues and deal with the same problems,” she said. “To them, I’m not a girl, I’m just another wrestler, another teammate.”
In his nine years as head wrestling coach at Skyline, Gus Kiss said he isn’t surprised that girls come out for the team and he doesn’t believe in preferential treatment.
“We’ve had female wrestlers in the past,” Kiss said. “We say as soon as you walk into the room, ‘You’re on the team and we treat you no differently.’”
Kara’s parents, Marcus and Debbie Alden, were caught a little off-guard by her decision to wrestle, but they agree that the team structure and camaraderie fit her well, and now they can’t imagine her doing anything else.
Though her parents can’t attend every match, they go to as many as they can and especially the all-girl tournaments where Kara is the lone representative for Skyline.
Debbie, who said she is not the nervous-mom type, admits that she is in awe whenever she watches Kara wrestle.
“Even when she wrestles boys who are clearly stronger than she is, she doesn’t give up,” Debbie said. “Win or lose, she has a strength, focus and determination that makes me so proud.”
Those characteristics have helped Kara through the physical and mental ups and downs of her wrestling career. Although she loves the sport, it can be a grind at times — the long Saturday tournaments that often begin as early as 6 a.m. with morning weigh-ins and end at 5 p.m., or the weeks leading up to the postseason when wrestling can start to feel repetitive.
Physically, it hasn’t been the easiest transition, but Kara has become accustomed to the violent nature of the sport. So much so that when she hurt her forearm during warm-ups the night before the Mat Classic, she was able to wrestle and win two matches the following day. It was only a week after the state tournament ended that her doctor found a tiny nondisplaced fracture in that arm.
When asked if she can see herself wrestling all through high school, Kara answered a confident yes.
“It’s hard, but I really do love the sport,” she said.
Though it’s difficult for Kara to narrow down her most memorable moment in her young wrestling career, what stands out to her is not the wins or losses or even the sixth-place finish at state, but rather the reassuring words of her coach at the end of the season.
“My coach, who tends to not be outwardly sentimental to us wrestlers, took me by the shoulders and simply said, ‘I’m really proud of you, Kara,’” she said. “I really needed that assurance, and the fact that it was from him was the best.”
Jacob Rogers is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.