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Wrestling with stereotypes

Only girl on MVHS team finds camaraderie, confidence

Paris Harrell, 15, is the only girl on the Mountain View High School co-ed wrestling team. "I do feel like I'm paving a path," said Harrell. "Another girl has told me she plans on joining the team next year." She sits with her teammates watching a match against Homestead High School at a home meet on Jan. 31. Photo by Magali Gauthier

When the wrestling season began in the fall, sophomore Paris Harrell decided to join the Mountain View High School team. She and a fellow classmate were the only female members.

"I first had interest in doing it in middle school, but I didn't do it because I didn't know if any other girls wanted to do it," Harrell said. "But I was interested in it because my mom used to do wrestling."

This school year, Harrell, 15, had a friend who also wanted to give wrestling a try, so they both signed up.

Her friend left the team for personal reasons, so Harrell is currently the only girl on the team. Harrell said her overall experience has been nothing but positive.

"I've gotten to know a lot of new people, and I've really been pushing myself both physically and emotionally and mentally, and in every aspect in general," Harrell said. "The coaches and all of my teammates have been really nice and positive and encouraging."

She said she doesn't believe that she has been treated differently even though she is a newcomer and a minority in the sport. With wrestling organized by weight class, Harrell is able to wrestle with peers of similar size.

Earlier in the season, Harrell said she needed to overcome the idea of wrestling with a guy. That, in combination with learning the technical aspects of the sport, has been her challenge this season.

"(In the beginning), I was pretty nervous," Harrell recalled. "I didn't really know quite what to do with myself. I had a little bit of a difficult time just understanding how to do it and building the confidence to actually fight."

But she caught on quickly, and she won her first match on Jan. 31.

"That has been the culmination of everything I've been learning," Harrell said. "I was focused on my game, and I fought really hard during the match. I thought that went really well, and it felt really rewarding for all of the hard work I put in."

Harrell is also an avid horseback rider but said she plans to continue wrestling through her senior year. Her experience has encouraged other girls at Mountain View High to join the team next season, she said.

"Wrestling is an amazing sport," Harrell said. "It's more getting over the fact that there are guys in the sport. It's really just joining the team -- that's the most difficult part -- getting enough courage to go out there."

Harrell is set to compete at the Central Coast Section (CCS) Championship on Feb. 15.

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