Pepper Marks is a senior wrestler at Santa Barbara High School, who just won her second year of CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Southern Division as upper weight “Most Valuable Player”, is a Supreme Gladiator individual champion, MVP for Supreme Gladiator Team Division, and is now on her way to nationals.
Marks has always loved sports, so when it came to deciding whether or not to do a sport in high school, it was a clear choice. However, Marks explained that she had already explored many other athletics before wrestling, from tennis, to kickboxing, and even some gymnastics, she knew that none of them were quite, “her thing.” Her brother happened to know one of the wrestling coaches at the time, so he suggested that Marks try it out because she had never done it before. Marks agreed but explained, “Honestly, I was about to walk away. It was during summer, before my freshman year, and I was like, ‘I’m embarrassed. I’m scared. I don’t want to go.’ My stepmom had to be like, ‘No, you’re going.’ So I went in and I am glad that I did. I just kind of fell in love with the sport. A week into it I was like, ‘Hey, this isn’t that bad!’”
Since then, Pepper Marks has found a family within the wrestling program. She explained that all of her teammates are like brothers and sisters, and the coaches are like the “Dads,” She laughed, “Sometimes I think I hang out with [Coach] Fidel more than my own family!” Marks explained further that she wouldn’t enjoy wrestling so much if the team was rude or disrespectful. She says that she loves hanging out with them outside of practice and that, “They are always there for you no matter what, and I just love them.” After wins and losses Marks explains that her team knows how to give her the support or space she needs to work through it. Her coaches are also always there for her by giving advice or lending a helping hand during practice.
From morning to evening, Marks is at school working hard at her straight A transcript and staying after practice to put in the extra mile. “I’ll practice by myself after the practice is over because I want to get better and I don’t want to drag down the team.” She explains that she doesn’t like to have homework so she gets her work done during class so that she can focus on sports after school. “I’m not grade motivated unless I’m sport motivated. So if I am not sport motivated, I won’t get any good grades.”
Outside of school, sports and her team, Pepper Marks loves to read fantasy books, watch TV shows, draw, and hang out with her family. “I love hanging out with my family. I’m a really big family person. They support me so much and I lose a lot of my family time to sports, so I’m going to do whatever I can with my family while I can still do it. Family game nights, family TV shows, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as I’m with my family.”
Pepper Marks expressed that she doesn’t want to leave high school yet. “I feel like everyone says this. Things are finally getting really fun. It’s your senior year. You’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to leave.’ And I really don’t want to leave. I like school. So it’s just kind of like, ‘Dang it’s really over.’” Marks has big plans for the future. She wants to continue wrestling in college and as of now her top choices are Southern Oregon University and Colorado Mesa University.
Besides wrestling in college, her main goal is to become a police officer. “I think it honestly started freshman year,” Marks laughed, “This sounds really bad, but I would just watch so many cop shows, like Criminal Minds and NCIS. I know that some of them are jokes and stuff like Brooklyn 99, but if they had cops that were actually that nice to people out there. Wouldn’t that be like a good thing? That’d be a great thing. People wouldn’t feel scared every single time a cop drives by, or when they get pulled over… I don’t want them to be scared because I feel like more incidents happen when you’re scared… Then with everything with the Black Lives Matter and with George Floyd, it just made me want to do it even more…I want to help people out and I feel like I would be good at it…”
Pepper Marks says that the advice she would give to any student coming into high school is to join a sport and to be kind and respectful to your classmates and teachers. Though reluctant to leave the haven of Santa Barbara High, we can all expect great things from Marks as she charges her way through the upcoming national competition and makes her way into the real world as a wrestler, leader, and friend.
Pepper Marks. [Image credit: Anya McCue]
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