PEN Wrestling Continues Successful Growth
• The Peninsula High wrestling team takes on the competition with heart and skill.Whistling referees, sweaty bodies, snarling tackles.
Wrestling is a sport that many shy away from, one that springs images of intimate, raw battles on a mat. Yet, it is a passion for many wrestlers such as junior Jessica Ho, who feels that the sport teaches valuable lessons on perseverance, composure and confidence.
Ho began wrestling in her freshman year of high school, where she stood as the only female wrestler on the team. After practicing sports like Brazillian jiu-jitsu and martial arts prior to high school, Ho felt that wrestling was an activity that most connected to previous pursuits.
“I participated in the martial arts field from age five to about 14, but once I got to high school I could not find a martial arts sport available” Ho said. “Thus, I just decided to give wrestling a shot and see where it goes.”
In Ho’s sophomore year, there were about six girls on the team. This year, there are three-to-four female Panthers wrestling. With these girls and the rest of her team, Ho was able to place fifth in CIF her sophomore year, which she believes is her most notable achievement.
“Along with placing in minor tournaments here and there, CIF was definitely my biggest accomplishment so far,” Ho said.
In addition to these achievements, Ho has reached another accomplishment that is more internal: overcoming gender roles and bias in a male-dominated sport like wrestling.
Ho explained that when she first joined the team, she was not as welcomed as her male counterparts. Yet, once she began to practice her craft and improved as an athlete, she started to prove to her team, her coaches, and especially herself that she deserves to be a Peninsula High School wrestler.
“As I started to show that I was not there for the wrong reasons but rather to just wrestle, I started earning the respect of others,” Ho said. “The mindset I created was that my sport is about doing what I love without caring for such external factors because I love wrestling regardless of what gender my teammates or competitors are.”
By understanding that her purpose in wrestling is her passion for the sport, Ho was able to look past the differences in gender and see her teammates as family and her competitors as opportunities to improve. This shift in her mental state has given her the chance to pursue wrestling with open arms, without hesitation.
I know that some people still will color wrestling with gender roles and bias, whether it be teammates or people in the bleachers,” Ho said. “But I definitely want to transcend all of these traditional factors of wrestling.”
Through perseverance, both internally and in wrestling, Ho has been able to gain confidence as a teenager, allowing her to talk to unfamiliar people and try unfamiliar activities. The sport changed her perspective on the world from an unfamiliar void to a place of possibilities, and Ho is grateful that she was able to learn life lessons early in life that pertain to her confidence.
“Whether it be in certain situations or the way I carry myself, wrestling has allowed me to attack all of the areas of being a person,” Ho said.
In contrast to these highs, Ho has experienced moments of struggle and hardship as a wrestler and as a teenager. Since her freshman year, Ho has had to lose weight in order to reach a certain weight category. Because she is a female, the process of losing weight is more difficult than her male teammates due to the biological setup of each body.
“Losing weight is honestly one of the hardest parts of being a wrestler for me,” Ho said. “Being disciplined with my food and liquid intake can be hard, and there is a lot of commitment that goes into it as well.”
Because Ho attends Peninsula High, experiencing the school’s academic rigor firsthand, it is especially difficult for her to keep her food intake in check while eating enough so she can successfully perform academically.
“With wrestling, you really love and hate it at the same time,” Ho said. “The feeling I get on the mat is a rush I have never experienced anywhere else, but there are factors like long practices and weight-making. However, I think that it is all worth it in the end.”
Now, with her eyes set on possible accomplishments for the rest of the season and her senior year, Ho hopes to continue creating connections with her teammates and improving her craft as a wrestler.
“I think it is natural to judge a girl wrestler on a team full of boys, but the best way to battle that is to prove your worth on the mat,” Ho said. “I am super grateful to be a part of this team and of what our coach has built, and I have such confidence in the Peninsula wrestling program.”