Greenwood wrestler Kennedi Washington, second from last in second row, competed at the 2022 Junior 14U Girls Duals in Tulsa, Oklahoma earlier this month. Washington finished 7-1 in her eight matches.

Every day at lunch, Angie Molina would sit with Kennedi Washington, trying to convince her to join the Greenwood wrestling team. After some time, the sophomore finally relented, joining the team for the 2021-22 season.

On her first day at wrestling practice, she left after 30 minutes without saying anything to anyone. Greenwood wrestling coach Nick Mountz thought that was the end of her wrestling career, but Washington returned the next day and kept coming back, eventually falling in love with the sport.

Less than a year after trying out wrestling, Washington represented Greenwood and the state of South Carolina at the 2022 USA Junior 14U Girls Duals hosted in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“It was shocking. I didn’t think I would do as well as I did,” Washington said. “I am very proud of myself for doing as well as I did.”

Washington was the lone Lakelands wrestler that took part in the two-day national competition. At first, it was a daunting task, going so far away to compete in a competition, but once she started to settle down Washington took over, finishing 7-1 in her eight matches.

“It was fun and very scary, but I like challenges,” Washington said. “It wasn’t a fear I didn’t want to face. It was something that I really wanted to do. I forced myself to do it. When I started to do it, I started to gain more confidence in myself. The more confidence I had, the easier it became for me to compete.”

Before her first match, Washington thought she was going to struggle. But after talking with her coaches, one of whom prayed over her, she started to develop her confidence, which she said was the biggest lesson she learned from the competition.

“I’m proud of myself, but I know I could have done better. The match that I lost was one I could have won,” Washington said. “I messed up, realized the mistake and will work on that mistake. Next year, I plan on going undefeated. As far as going 7-1, I am still proud of myself, because I thought I wasn’t going to win any of my matches. To go almost undefeated, it was a real confidence booster.”

Washington finished her sophomore year as a South Carolina Wrestling Coaches Association state champion, as Greenwood finished first as a team. Washington finished second in her weight class.

“It is an awesome reward to have her sought out by the South Carolina team coaches,” Mountz said. “She did very well at the SCWCA girls state championship and got her name out there. With there being so many levels of competition at a tournament like that, you never know how one of your kids will fare or how they will respond. Kennedi responded in the best possible way, went out and competed to the best of her ability.”

Contact sports writer Cody Estremera at 864-943-2530.