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Student wrestles her way to third place

Recent success at the wrestling state championship sets records
Ed Tanaka
Senior wrestler Jacqueline Benson performing a takedown on her opponent.

Looking out at the stands in the Tacoma Dome, waving to her teammates in excitement, senior wrestler Jacqueline Benson stood in shock after taking down her opponent in her final match of the state championship, securing third place, and finishing off a historic win. 

“I will remember that for a while,” Benson said, reflecting on the moment she became the highest placing female wrestler in Ballard history and the third highest placing female wrestler in the Metro League.

This final high school wrestling experience for Benson concluded an overall successful and impactful season. From placing 7th in the Braided 64 tournament during the regular season, to finishing as a finalist in the metro championships, advancing to regionals to going undefeated at state and taking a place on the podium. 

Benson’s contribution and growth over the past three years of being on the team have left little pages turned. Looking back, what was a spur of the moment decision became a huge impact. 

“After four days of wrestling I quit gymnastics,” Benson said. “It was a bit of a shock to my family considering I had done gymnastics for about a decade before. But wrestling was new, and being on that mat, I didn’t have to think about anything else.” 

Since that moment Benson has fought to be the best she could be for her, her team, and her coaches. Though not easy, it brought her endless memories and lessons learned. 

“Our coaches talk a lot about mental barriers,” Benson said. “They’ve taught us that when you get to that point where you feel like you can’t continue, push a little further because in reality you can go so much further than when your brain tells you to stop.” 

Though Benson does not plan to continue wrestling in college, her excitement to move onto new things brings along these lessons that she would not have learned without the team who moved through the chaos and excitement of being a student athlete together.

“I’m closer with my team than I am with almost anyone else,” Benson said. “In the beginning it’s a little weird, being friends with the people you try to beat up at practice. But after a while you realize we’re all just making each other better.” 

Every year the team writes individual goals. They’re instructed to “set goals higher than what seems realistic.” For Benson, her goal was to place in the top three at state. 

“My actual realistic goal was just to place, maybe get seventh or eighth,” Benson said. “But I decided, whatever, I will shoot for the top three. And then I got third.” 

She pushed a little harder when things felt their hardest, and with that she made history alongside her teammates. Whatever is next for Benson and the rest of the wrestling team, their mark on the school has been made. 

Q: When did you start wrestling and what got you into it?

A: I started my sophomore year when I saw a poster in the hall and decided it seemed cool. I had done gymnastics for almost a decade before that which was kind of my entire life and after four days of wrestling I quit gymnastics which was a bit of a shock to my family. I did a little bit of freestyle and went to nationals my first year and just continued on. 

Q: How would you say gymnastics translated into wrestling? 

A: It translated a lot more than I thought, I thought it was gonna be entirely different because gymnastics is an individual sport, wrestling is a combat sport. But there is a lot of different pins that a lot of people couldn’t do because of flexibility, a lot of body awareness, coordination. 


Q: What made you enjoy wrestling?

A: I think because gymnastics was my life for ten years and then wrestling was so new and different. It was nice to be on the mat because you can just focus on wrestling, not thinking about anything else.


Q: Going into this season what goals did you bring into your final year? 

A: We’re told to set our goals higher than what we think is realistic, kind of the shooting for the moon land among the stars thing. So, I started with placing in the top three, which i thought was not realistic, my real realistic goal was to place, get 8th or 7th, but I was like whatever I will shoot for top three. But then I got third. 


Q: Looking back on the past four years, what memories or lessons do you hold closest to you? 

A: I thought a lot of it would be wins, but most of it is different. We have veteran parties before the seasons and those are always fun spending time with the teammates. It’s kind of interesting because we are trying to sort of beat each other up at practice a lot but we’re also so close and have a good time together which is always really fun. Two of the big ones from state, one was after my third place match, my coach had told me that if I win I make Ballard history, and the girl I was wrestling was someone who had whooped me bad before but I ended up beating her at State and afterwards I hugged my coach and we turned and waved at my team up in the tacoma dome which was really cool and I think I will remember that for a while. And then the second one was when they staged us for the podium. Almost all of us were seniors so it was out last time out there which eliminated the usual tension of maybe wrestling against each other soon, so I had a fun conversation with another wrestler, Mira, who’s one of my good friends now. 


Q: With the team dynamic, how is the community? 

A: It’s weird at first. My first month, a lot of the stretches and warm ups just look stupid and you look weird doing them and wrestling with people feels a bit awkward because it’s crossing boundaries you wouldn’t normally cross. But like I said, especially the 8 of us who have been wrestling for three years, I’m closer with them that I am with almost anyone else. After a couple years together I know the people who might beat me pretty bad when we go live, but we’re just making each other better and have a completely different relationship off the mat. 


Q: What does the state third place mean to you?

A: My first year I went and watched state. At state they do a finals parade where all the first and second palace wrestlers get to parade through the dome and there’s a bunch of music. I was pretty determined that that’s something I wanted to do, that’s what I thought of at hard practices, it kept me going. I still don’t think I’ve quite processed it though. The wrestlers that place high at state, I still think of them as this elite group that would be cool to be a part of, it still hasn’t clicked that I am not a part of that group. I had a bunch of people text me about the stats on that win, like highest placing female at Ballard and third highest placing female in SPS history, which was amazing to see and get that support. 

Q: Do you think you’ll wrestle in college? 

A: I don’t think so at this point. I was originally not looking to continue, then my mom started getting some recruiting calls and I thought about it. But I feel really good about where it finished off, and I want to start new things and try new things. I love wrestling so much but it becomes so mentally and physically grueling and it becomes your entire life. 

Q: Are there things wrestling has taught you that you want to hang onto?

A: One of the biggest things, our coaches say a lot in practice, this is the hardest thing you’ve had to do. They talk a lot about breaking mental barriers. When you get to the point where you feel like you can’t continue, push a little further because in reality you can go so much further than when your brain tells you to stop. So just keep that with me. Also time management, getting homework done with so much practice. But overall just going further than you think you can even if it’s just a step further. 

Q: During your time wrestling, what challenges do you think were the hardest to surpass? 

A: My coach told me a lot, I was a bit of a headcase of a wrestler, meaning I would get in my head and just not wrestle as well as I could. For example, wrestling someone I had previously lost to I would internalize that and just not wrestle as well knowing I had already lost to them. I think this year I was able to stop caring about winning or losing, my coach kept telling me he wanted me to be more violent, more angry. I wanted to make him proud, so I just decided if he doesn’t care about the outcome, I won’t, and I think I won my next six matches after that and I had a really similar mindset on the second day of state when I took third. So just the mindset you take into things can change how it goes so drastically, it made my wrestling go from timid and not taking shots to oh well, if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it’s a wrestling match. 

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