Just one of the grapplers

POULSBO — Being a female in a predominantly-male sport is something that NKHS senior wrestler Tara Williams has grown accustomed to. However, that doesn’t mean those wrestling against her have made the adjustment. And as a result, many in her path have paid the price on the mats. “I wrestled a kid in sixth grade,” Williams said of one of her past victories, “And the guys there still tease him about it.”

POULSBO — Being a female in a predominantly-male sport is something that NKHS senior wrestler Tara Williams has grown accustomed to.

However, that doesn’t mean those wrestling against her have made the adjustment. And as a result, many in her path have paid the price on the mats.

“I wrestled a kid in sixth grade,” Williams said of one of her past victories, “And the guys there still tease him about it.”

No doubt Williams, who has wrestled anywhere from the 119 to 130 lbs. classes this year, faces what she called “negative energy” from other teams’ wrestlers, who can’t get over the fact they’re wrestling a gender opposite of their own. But she said she’s been fortunate to be a part of a team like the Vikings, which she admitted has been the least skeptical squad she’s ever been on.

“This team took me in faster than any other team,” she said. “They were really accepting of me. They work really hard to be a team.”

That has not always been the case for Williams, who has wrestled up and down the entire West Coast as a member of a frequently-moving family.

Williams began wrestling when she was in the fifth grade and living in Barrow, Alaska — the northern-most city in the United States. The closest squads her wrestling team could compete against were only reachable by plane, and she remembers many nights in which the team would compete in different Alaskan cities, camp out in the same school, and then fly back to Barrow the next day.

But sometimes she wouldn’t get the chance to wrestle, as other grapplers, their parents and even other coaches in middle school wouldn’t give her a shot.

“I would get so many forfeits because the wrestlers wouldn’t wrestle me,” she said.

After a stint in Anchorage, she then moved to San Diego, Calif. when she was in 10th grade. That’s also where her opponents’ opinions changed, she said, as it didn’t matter who you were — male or female, you were there to win.

She even admitted that she finds wrestling against girls to be more of an awkward challenge, stating that “boys try to muscle you a lot, but girls use much more technique.”

Moving to Poulsbo for only the 2004-05 school year, arguably the roughest part of her NKHS season was getting mono, she said. But the infection hasn’t kept her from attaining a 9-5 record this year on the mats, or keep her from competing in the post-season. And when she graduates, Williams has a number of college programs she said she’s applying to so she can continue her wrestling career.

At North for her fourth and final high school year, she has worked primarily with NK grapplers Matt Grimes and Kyle Cetnarowski.

Grimes works with Williams on almost a daily basis, the pair being relatively close in weight class. He said he’s enjoyed watching overconfident opponents go out on the mats with Williams and get wrapped up in a pin in the first period.

“She’ll go out there and bust some guy’s butt,” Grimes said, “And he doesn’t even know what happened.”

And the overall team’s achievement has improved with her on the team, Cetnarowski added.

“I don’t think we’d be as successful without her,” he said.

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