April 13, 1998
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/staff photo
Shaker Culpepper, Timbercrest Junior High wrestling coach, and teammember Lisa Ward.
by Andrew Walgamott
WOODINVILLE--"I just do it." No, those aren't the words of a star centerfielder, a marquee NBA shooting guard or golf phenom. Those words are of Lisa Ward, 15, when asked how she developed her wrestling skills. Lisa is a varsity wrestler for the Timbercrest Junior High Wolves. In her third year of wrestling, she has won the respect of her coaches and teammates alike. And for Lisa, a 100-pound 9th grader with blonde hair, blue eyes and braces, respect is what it's all about. She has a record of 4-3 on a squad that finished 3-2 this year and placed second in a recent Northshore School District tournament. Those four wins and three losses are against boys. There is no "girls wrestling" yet, even as interest from girls grows.
Lisa caught the "wrestling bug" about three years ago after her younger brother, William, got involved with the sport. Their father, Walter Ward said that one day when she was in 7th grade, Lisa announced that she was going to wrestle, simple as that. That year, she competed in the exhibition class. In 8th grade, Lisa made varsity, but lost all of her matches.
This year, she's come under the tutelage of former Woodinville High School and Leota Junior High wrestler Shaker Culpepper. Describing her as a fireball, Coach Culpepper said she's eager to learn. "She wants to see moves on top of the moves that are being taught," he said and adds she has excellent technical skills, one of three factors important to wrestling. The others are stamina and strength.
Lisa said she thinks of one thing on the wrestling mat: "pinning him." "She'll fight to the last round. You never know what she's going to do. She could be ahead by one [point] or down by ten. She'll throw a move and be right back in the match," Culpepper said.
"It's fun to watch Lisa," said Monica, the team trainer, "because she's one of the best wrestlers on the team." Ryan Dallas, a 140-pound grappler who is one half of three different sets of brothers on the Timbercrest squad, calls her a "great addition to the team." If there's an advantage to being a girl in this sport it's being limber. Lisa's also a gymnast and a swimmer; the latter has helped to build her upper body strength. She has an added spark. Lisa is, in the words of her brother and father, "snarly." When Monica mentioned that Culpepper's nickname for her is "Little Tike" during a recent interview, Lisa shot the coach a look and said, "Oh, he's going to have a bruised arm tomorrow."
Walter doesn't worry about, ahem, boys taking advantage of his daughter on the mat. "There's none of that touchy, feely stuff. No boy is out there to jerk around because he doesn't want to go home and say he lost to a girl," Walter said. Even though it is increasingly common for girls to wrestle, there are still issues to be worked out. Lisa's mother, Michelle, who works for the school district, notes it's still called "boys wrestling" though there is a girl on the team. Also, the singlet (what wrestlers wear in competition) has a large armpit hole. Lisa wears a T-shirt although that gives opponents something to grab, Michelle said.
Horse-riding, dog occupy spare time
Lisa has a softer side. When asked for a picture, she takes fifteen minutes to wet and let her hair down and change out of the drab green sweatsuit Timbercrest wrestlers wear between matches into her street clothes. In her spare time, she said she likes to ride horses and work with clay. The Wards live near Tuck Lake. She's also involved in 4-H and has shown her Chesapeake Bay retriever at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe.
This might be Lisa's last year in wrestling. She may, instead, try out for gymnastics when she gets to 10th grade. Wrestling and gymnastic seasons are scheduled at the same time in high school. Culpepper believes she could be a decent wrestler at the next level and said her skills show in her winning record. Walter wishes she would go on with the sport, but concedes, "It was her idea to wrestle, and hers not to. I'm not going to push it either way."