Pepper Marks of Santa Barbara, top, captured her weight class at the CIF-SS Southern Division Individual Championships. (Photo courtesy of Noozhawk)
- How does it feel to be the school’s and South Coast area’s first California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section girls wrestling champion?
It feels good but there is a lot more pressure because next year, I will have to go further and there is anxiety. But women now get recognition which is nice.
- When did you start wrestling?
I started wrestling in eighth grade, summer coming into ninth grade. I did take a break, but came back so now it’s been two and a half years.
- How much do you practice?
Monday to Saturday for two hours of training from third to fourth period [along with] Sunday’s optional practice to help kids improve.
- Who do you look up to?
Coach Hamon is someone I look up to because he knows how to coach me and teaches me what to improve on without putting me down. And if I want to start coaching as good as him, I have to be as nice as him. Another person is Gable Steveson–an Olympic gold medalist–and I really look up to the way he does wrestling.
- Given your impressive 21-0 record, what mindset did you have going into each game?
Try not to lose. Trying to place. Don’t lose, because if I lose, I let myself but also other people down. Do better than other people. If I give a run for the money with my coaches I could beat any girl in a game. If someone beats me, I want them to earn it.
- You won three tournaments and the channel league championship. How did that affect your confidence going into CIF?
Going into CIF went better than Masters. I had to place in the top eight, and I wanted to get to the state. I had a mindset of getting to the top eight, then keep adding on. Go from a low goal then go higher and higher. My girl team really helps take off the pressure and worry.
- Who was your toughest opponent?
My toughest opponent is Avery Manko at Cabrillo High School. This year alone we have wrestled ten times and we have wrestled so much that we know each other so well. So it comes down to technique and stamina. I have had tough opponents but no one like her.
- What do you love most about wrestling?
The team. I love the friendships and family that comes out of the team. I love the guys on the team like my brothers. And the girls team are like my sisters and they support me.