Wrestler wins nationals, trains for World Championships

Happiness flooded junior Cadence Lee as she raised the plaque high above her head.

Written by: Catalina Zhao

Happiness flooded junior Cadence Lee as she raised the plaque high above her head. Her hard work, dedication and skills in wrestling paid off and brought her to a first place finish in the national tournament. In mid-July, Lee was one of many wrestlers in the nation to compete in the official freestyle national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota. Lee participated in the Cadet tournament—for competitors of age 16 and under—and Junior tournament—for all ages. She won five matches in the Cadet tournament to take first place. However, after winning three matches in the Junior tournament, Lee had to default because of a neck injury.
As with all her competitions, Lee tried not to let her nervousness affect her performance. “Whenever I compete, I try to tell myself to clear my head and just wrestle,” she wrote in an email. After the grueling and challenging rounds she faced, Lee was rewarded with a first-place trophy in Cadet and was filled with emotion. “When I got the plaque I was extremely happy, but at the same time I couldn’t really believe it was real,” she wrote.
Lee’s journey to taking first place at Fargo Nationals began with qualifying for the national team at the Freestyle State tournament. The top three wrestlers receive the opportunity to compete in North Dakota, and since Lee took first place the past two years, she earned a spot on California’s national team.
Prior to competing, Lee worked to stay in shape and maintain her required weight. She also trained with her fellow Californian teammates with an early morning run and two to three practices throughout the day.
Looking back on her performance, Lee is happy but does not let her success get to her head. “I’m very proud,” she wrote. “However, I know it’s important that I move on and keep focusing on my future goals.” Varsity wrestling coach Chris Horpel is also pleased with Lee’s performance. “I was not surprised [that she won], but I am very proud of what Cadence has accomplished,” he wrote in an email. According to Horpel, Lee was capable of winning Cadet Nationals because of her similar performance in the spring.
Aside from winning, Lee also gained valuable lessons from this experience. “I learned about many technical elements that I need to improve on, but also how to deal with success,” she wrote. “I can be happy about my achievements, but I need to make sure I stay on the path towards bigger goals.” Lee’s father, Hon Lee, sees wrestling as a sport that is positively shaping her as an individual. “The pride that I have is more so for her personal character development than it is for her medal appearances,” he wrote in an email. “I am witnessing the development of a beautiful, strong, intelligent and spirited young lady.”
Champions soar with support, and Lee credits her family and friends with her success. “My parents and siblings watched all my matches that were streamed live online and gave me encouraging feedback through [text messages and phone calls],” she wrote. That support included Horpel. “He has taught me so many things both technically and mentally,” Lee wrote. “He was an amazing competitive wrestler, and now he’s an amazing teacher.”
Lee is currently practicing at the Olympic training center for the world championships, which will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan. She won a spot on this wrestling team by taking first place at BodyBar Nationals in Florida. Lee feels anxious about this upcoming event. “I’m really nervous to wrestle people from all over the world and so many different countries,” she wrote. “I’ve heard that in some other countries, wrestling is all they do.” However, Horpel is confident that she will be ready to compete. “Cadence can do whatever she puts her mind to,” Horpel wrote. “Regarding her training, she will now have a lot of workout partners that are tough and are her size, so she will be very prepared for the world championships.”
Lee’s father also sees this occasion as an eye-opening experience. “The world championships will expose her to styles of wrestling she has not seen,” he wrote. “I believe that the Russians and Europeans favor different stances and tie ups which sets a different pace of match. This will be a fantastic learning opportunity for her especially given that she plans to wrestle for Gunn this coming academic year.”
Through training, making bonds with other wrestlers on the team and actually competing at Fargo Nationals, Lee finds gratification in this experience. “The best part is definitely the feeling of satisfaction after achieving what I’ve worked for,” she wrote. “It’s indescribable.”

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