By David Fong
CASSTOWN — Throughout her wrestling career, more than a few boys have been hesitant to get on the wrestling mat with Olivia Shore.
Turns out the girls should have been afraid, too.
“I picked up a lot of forfeits in my career when boys didn’t want to wrestle me,” said Shore, a freshman at Miami East High School. “I don’t know if it was because they didn’t want to lose to a girl or they just didn’t want to wrestle a girl.”
When the boys didn’t throw in the towel before the match started, more often than not, Shore went ahead and wiped the mat with them, winning a pair of Central Buckeye Conference championships while competing for Graham Middle School — where she went to school before transferring to Miami East this fall — beating out an all-male field while still recovering from two broken hands and a broken elbow.
“Since I’ve been little, I’ve always been a super tomboy,” Shore said. “I played flag football and on boys baseball teams. I’ve always gotten along better with boys.”
Turns out as good as Shore was at beating the boys, however, she was even better competing against girls. Last May, Shore won a cadet women’s freestyle national championship in the 46 kilogram (101.2 pounds) weight class, earning her a spot on the U.S. cadet freestyle team that competed at the world championships in Greece.
The national championship was Shore’s sixth — she’s placed a total of eight times at nationals — but this was the first year she was old enough to compete in the cadet division, which meant it was the first time winning a national title would earn her a spot on the world team. To win the national title, Shore — who was only in the eighth grade at the time — had to beat out a field consisting mostly of juniors and seniors in high school.
Competing in Irving, Texas, Shore breezed through the early rounds and, in the finals, swept Colorado’s Angel Rios in a best-of-three series.
That earned Shore a trip to Greece to compete in the world championships. Competing against wrestlers from Russia and Latvia, Shore took early leads, but ultimately ended up getting pinned twice and eliminated from the tournament. Still, though, Shore — who made the trip with her parents, George and Tracie — said competing internationally for the first time was a valuable learning experience.
“It was a great experience,” Shore said. “I was nervous — not because of how big it was, but because I knew how many people had my back. I wanted to do better for them. I learned a lot, though. We couldn’t read any of the road signs and we didn’t speak the language. We knew they could understand us, but they couldn’t really respond. I didn’t really like the food. I pretty much ate chicken every meal, because it’s pretty hard to mess up chicken.”
At the rate she’s going, Shore may want to expand her culinary tastes, as international wrestling competitions seem destined to be a part of her future.
Sort of like becoming a wrestler seemed preordained since birth.
Shore’s father — the only wrestling coach she’s ever known — wrestled in high school and at Wilmington College. Her older brother Graham, a senior at Miami East, is a three-time state placer who will be one of the favorites to win a state championship this year. Her four younger brothers all compete on the club wrestling team her family founded.
Still, though, while a career in wrestling seemed like a natural fit, Shore’s parents were initially hesitant to let her pursue the sport. Neither of her older sisters went into the family wrestling business.
“When I first told my parents I wanted to wrestle, they weren’t sure they wanted me to,” she said. “I told them to just let me try. I started going to practices when I was four. By the time I was eight, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I started winning national tournaments, I knew this was something I could do.”
Her brother Graham — a top-flight competitor who has given a verbal commitment to wrestle at the United States Air Force Academy next year — said she’s one of the hardest-working wrestlers he’s ever met.
“She’s incredible,” he said. “Her attitude and her work ethic are what’s separated her from everyone else. She works harder than me. She’s on the mat at least six days a week. A lot of times when she’s wrestling guys, she’s giving up 20 pound and a lot of strength — but her technique is just crazy. When I work with her, I learn just as much from her as she does from me.”
This winter, Olivia — who competes nationally against girls year-round — will try to put that work ethic and technique to good use as she’ll be competing for the Miami East high school team. While she’s competed against boys in the past, she’ll likely see a step up at the high school level as she competes against more physically mature wrestlers than she saw at the youth and junior high levels.
That hasn’t tempered the high expectations she has for herself, however, as her goal is to not only get to state — something that’s only been done once before, by Crestwood’s Paige Nemec seven years ago — but to become the first girl in Ohio high school wrestling history to place at state.
“I want to make state and I want to get on the podium,” she said. “That’s the goal.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong