Friday, January 4, 2008

A wrestler to cheer for

As a freshman, Shannon Sterling watched her pal Rebecka Joshua win an array of wrestling matches.

As a sophomore, Sterling is doing more than just watching her friend. The two of them can be seen nearly every day at the wrestling room, working on moves.

Sterling, who is also a cheerleader, has quickly made a mark in the world of high school girls' wrestling.

"She wanted to try the sport last year," Joshua said. "She came to open mats before practice started this year. She was really good. She has a lot of energy and a lot of drive."

Sterling's first go-around in the sport has been an eye-opener.

"I didn't think it would be so rough and intimidating," Sterling said. "I am going to stay with the sport. I am very determined to win some matches."

That determination has impressed the Half Moon Bay coaches.

"She is one of the most competitive wrestlers I have ever seen," frosh-soph coach Gabe Gammon said. "She reminds me a lot of (1998 Half Moon Bay graduate) P.J. Davis. He never stopped when he was on the mat. She's just like that."

Sterling will be both a cheerleader and a wrestler for the rest of the year.

Telling her parents of her desire to wrestle wasn't as challenging as she thought. Her father, Mike, was in favor of it.

"In a way, it helps promote self-defense," he said. "If she's ever in a bad situation, she will know what to do."

Mother Brenda was a little more apprehensive, but she is very supportive of her youngest daughter - including her daughter's participation in a most challenging sport.

Brenda Sterling noticed the difference in her daughter's demeanor after a cheerleading practice as opposed to a wrestling practice.

"After cheerleading practice, she was always peppy," Brenda Sterling said. "But after wrestling practice, she would be dragging. She would be extremely tired and hungry."

Sterling also had to tell her cheerleading teammates of her desire.

"I couldn't believe that little cheerleader Shannon was doing it," said cheerleading teammate Callie White. "I thought the sport would be too tough for someone of her size."

White and the rest of the cheerleaders saw Sterling wrestling on Dec. 7.

"She did great," White said. "She was very aggressive. Everyone was impressed with her."

The two friends used to wrestle just for the heck of it. But they can't anymore.

"We just get too aggressive," Sterling said.

Sterling was 1-4 at her first tournament in Vallejo.

"In her first match, she was winded 20 seconds into the match," Brenda Sterling said. "I was wondering if she would make it through the match."

Not only did she finish that match, she finished all of her matches.

"For someone who had been wrestling for two weeks, she did quite well," Joshua said.

One week after that tournament, she finished fourth at the Peninsula Tournament, hosted by Half Moon Bay.

"I wish I had a team filled with young ladies like her who have her determination and tenacity," girls' coach Joan Fulp said. "She's a real competitor."

Sterling admits she has a lot to learn. The sport still challenges her.

"The toughest part is remembering how to do the moves correctly," Sterling said.

She has made a lot of fans along the way, starting with her parents.

"Going from cheerleading to wrestling is very courageous," Mike Sterling said. "I am so proud of her. I hope she sticks with the sport."

Sterling said she intends to stay with the sport through at least her senior year of high school. Many expect special things to happen.

"She has a lot of raw talent," coach John Rhodes said. "She is a good all-around athlete."

Her mom knows that Sterling could make a name for herself in the sport.

"Everyone thinks she's pretty strong," Brenda Sterling said. "She goes into every match with a lot of fire."

The person most impressed is Joshua, Sterling's best friend.

"She is better than me when I first started," Joshua said. "If she sticks with it for the next two years, I think she will be great. I think she can be a league champion."

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