Although Paris Harrell is the first and only girl to wrestle for Mountain View High, she doesn’t think of that when she’s on the mat.
“You are more focused on surviving during wrestling – and pushing your way through it – than you are actually focused on your opponent’s gender,” she said.
The sophomore was inspired to join the team by her mother, a college wrestler, and the support of her friends.
A novice on the junior-varsity team, Harrell said she’s made strides since the season began in November.
“I feel the improvement in my muscles, my stamina and basic skills,” she said. “I can see and feel myself improving.”
Mountain View coach Francisco Hernandez sees the same.
“She started very hesitant, but as of late she has become aggressive and has been able to show her strength against her opponents,” he said. “It showed most in our final home dual against Homestead when she beat a talented 126-pound wrestler she will most likely face sometime at the CCS tournament.”
That Jan. 31 match against Homestead’s Ava Aufderheide marked Harrell’s first win. Trailing 5-0 after the first period, Harrell earned three points (escape and takedown) in the second and pinned Aufderheide with 35 seconds left in the third.
Harrell’s next chance to win a match is at the Central Coast Section girls championships, scheduled Friday and Saturday at Independence High in San Jose. Hernandez said he is “extremely excited to see how she does” at CCS.
Win or lose, Harrell plans to wrestle again next season. The Los Altos resident said she hopes to compete through her senior year and “continue getting better and improving.”
But she knows it won’t be easy.
“Wrestling is a really challenging sport … so it is another new thing that I get to try out and use to express myself,” Harrell said. “It is also really good for releasing tension and to feel good about myself.”
Harrell added that wrestling might help her progress in other areas as well.
“I think that this is a good experience for the future because I’m going to be trying new things and challenging myself,” she said, “and wrestling is a good way to start doing that.”
Although Harrell’s junior high school, Blach Intermediate, had a coed wrestling program, she didn’t go out for the team “because I didn’t think there were a lot of other girls doing it,” she said.
Although Harrell is the only girl on the Mountain View team, she isn’t treated any differently.
“It doesn’t change the dynamic on the team,” she said. “The coaches all treat everybody equally. … All my teammates are really nice and encouraging.”
Harrell offered advice to other girls who may want to try the sport.
“Go for it!” she said. “Don’t be intimidated by the fact that there aren’t many girls on the team. You might inspire other people to join.”