Girls wrestling is a fast-growing sport in Washington, and it has ensnared the interest of two sisters at Gig Harbor High School.
Mackenzie Schwendeman, a junior 112-pounder, joined the Tides as a freshman and has been grappling with the boys since day one. Her only true disappointments have been the injuries that have kept her out of postseason competitions in each of her first two high-school seasons.
Elizabeth, a freshman 100-pounder, began wrestling with Mackenzie a few years ago through the Wolverines, a Gig Harbor-based club team. They’ve both had solid performances during the 2012-13 season, and they advanced to last weekend’s Region II tournament at Auburn High.
There, they continued to excel, with Mackenzie securing second place and Elizabeth taking third as both moved on to this weekend’s Mat Classic state championships.
The Peninsula Gateway caught up with the sisters prior to a workout last week, and they answered several questions about the sport they love.
The Peninsula Gateway: How did you get started wrestling?
Mackenzie Schwendeman: You know what? I wanted to be like one of the guys. I was in the sixth grade, and none of the girls wrestled, and I just came home and I was like, ‘Mom, dad, I want to wrestle.’ I don’t know why I did. I just did, and I’ve loved it all six years I’ve been doing it.
Elizabeth Schwendeman: I started because my sister, she came home one day from middle school and said that she wanted to wrestle, so she mainly got me into it at first. And then, my coaches started supporting me more, which made me want to do it more, which I want to thank them for.
PG: Have you ever dealt with a stigma that girls shouldn’t be wrestling, or they aren’t as good as boys?
ES: No, not really, just people being immature about it. But I get over it.
PG: What has been the hardest part about taking up serious wrestling?
ES: Probably pushing through all the pain that I’ve been through, and having to work super hard to get to the weight I want to be. Even though I really don’t have to lose weight, I’m thankful for my coaches and my supporters that are there for me.
MS: Mostly, weight was a big deal, and then overcoming all my injuries and stuff. But I’ve been really strong this season, not getting injured at all, and it’s been a big help from having my coaches and having my partner there. Mac Davis, who is a freshman, he’s a big help to me, because he’s always been my partner when I’ve needed one.
PG: Mackenzie, you’ve had to heal from injuries that have derailed your last two postseasons. Is dealing with pain also a key thing for you?
MS: Yes – it’s something you’re going to have to deal with if you’re going to be a wrestler. But it’s all and good. If you work hard and you push through it, then you’re going to end up succeeding, no matter what.
PG: What’s it like having your dad, Don, as an assistant coach with the Tides?
ES: It’s great, because he’s always there to push us through, even when we don’t want to. And he’s one of our biggest supporters.
MS: I’d like to say he’s probably our No. 1 supporter. He’s been there when nobody thought we could do something. He’s been there when he was the only one that really knew what was going on, and he’s been able to work out with me so that I can maintain at my weight. That’s a big deal. I’d really like to thank my coaches and my dad for everything they’ve done.
PG: What are your thoughts going into your first appearance at the regional tournament?
MS: It’s going to be really hard, but I plan on being at state, and I plan on placing at state this year and making a stand.
I am pretty familiar with many of the girls I’ll be wrestling, but you’ve got to have the right mindset, and you’ll win, no matter what.
ES: I really hope to kick some major butt, but I know that there’s possibly going to be some losses in there, and I hope there’s not. I just need to keep my head up, no matter what.
I attended last year’s Mat Classic, but I wasn’t really paying attention much to it, since I wasn’t very serious about it then.
PG: What do you like to do when you’re not wrestling?
ES: I just hang out with my family and friends. Being able to spend time with them is really great.
At home, we just do family stuff, like watch movies and play family games. It’s pretty fun.
MS: I enjoy building the bond between my sister and I. We’ve gotten closer through this sport, and hanging out with my family and making the team more of a family than it has been in the past is great.
My little brother likes Legos, so we’re playing Legos a lot.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.