Never Too Late (by Cameron Nunez)
Everyone has heard the statement “It’s never too late to start” at least once in their lifetime. Me, I have been told this all my athletic life.
In the early years of my life, wrestling was a year-round sport in my brother’s life, and it soon became a crucial part of my life. I would spend hours upon hours in a smelly gym just watching my big brother on the mat. As a child, I remember my parents letting me run up and down the gym hallways playing with random kids to try to release all my built-up energy. This continued until I was about four years old when my parents finally decided to take my point and put it into something more useful, aka sports.
Growing up, there were many sports I tried; the first being soccer. I loved running up and down the grass field trying to score goals every weekend. My parents then decided to add gymnastics and tee-ball into the mix. Little did I know in the fall of 2010, I would trade in soccer for my primary fall sport, field hockey, which lasted eleven years. I was lucky enough to be coached by my mom for five of those eleven years.
When I reached fourth grade, instead of sitting at my brother’s matches all day, I took up a winter sport and started playing basketball. Funny enough, in my first year of playing, we won the league championships. In the spring, I continued to do softball until seventh grade, when I decided to try out for the middle school club lacrosse team. Once I reached seventh grade, I had to start trying out for sports teams, but luckily I was able to continue playing field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. During the winter though, I missed being in the wrestling atmosphere, so I decided to hang up my basketball shoes and manage the middle school’s wrestling team.
In high school, I kept playing field hockey and managing wrestling but sadly gave up lacrosse. Since field hockey was my primary sport, I focused on getting better by doing spring/summer/winter leagues and going to clinics. I believed that field hockey was going to be the sport I would play in college. Who knew my junior year of high school would change my plans?
In my brother’s senior year of high school, he wrestled under one of Easton’s legends, JaMarr Billman. I had the privilege of managing the wrestling team under him during my first two years of high school. The fall of 2019 came, and I was done with my junior field hockey season. I was super excited to be back in the sweaty room cleaning the mats until I saw a Twitter post on the Easton Wrestling page saying, “Easton Wrestling sign-ups for this upcoming year…This is for both male and female HS wrestlers.”
I showed my parents this tweet right away. We talked all night about if I should go for it. My dad told me, “You are not nearly at the level of experience as these boys and they are going to be bigger than you, but you know it’s never too late to try.” He tells me til this day that he should have let me wrestle sooner. I was so excited to now be the one making the mats sweaty. I never let anything deter me from going to practice every day. I would get tossed around by my male teammates but that never stopped me. After a while, they started to embrace my presence there and helped me develop my wrestling technique.
Coach Billman never shied away from challenging me and teaching me, which to me meant everything. I lost every match that year, but I was grateful to be part of the team. That first season was over just like that, and it was time for our annual banquet. I remember sitting there during the award ceremony portion of the banquet when the Dick Rutt Memorial Award was being presented; an award for an individual who is hard-working and dedicated to the sport. My brother had won the award his senior year, so I was excited to see who the next recipient of it would be. All of the sudden, I heard my name being called. I was in shock, to say the least, and didn’t think I deserved it being only my first-year wrestling. I grabbed it and looked at it and was so proud to have been selected for it. In the back of my head, I did know that I had put my all into the season. After that moment I thought perhaps this would be my new primary sport.
The summertime came and I started to go to wrestling clubs. I went to one club by East Stroudsburg University, which is where I met my college coach, Coach Nieves. I would spend every Monday and Wednesday learning from him. It was my new love to where I would even go after field hockey practice. I worked hard in the room and, like any wrestler in front of a college coach, I wanted to make a good impression. After practice one day, Coach Nieves asked if I would be interested possibly in coming to wrestle at ESU. I remember thinking “Really, I only wrestled for one year. Why would you want me? I am not that high level.” Then he said to me, “Cam, I know you only wrestled for a year, but with your hard work and dedication mentality, you can be great at ESU.” Of course, I discussed this with my parents because I had only been wrestling one year and many college girl wrestlers have been wrestling since they were little. There would be some tough competition and being a student-athlete with a very demanding major, Athletic Training, would take a lot of dedication, effort, and time management as well. It was a big decision, but I wanted to take the chance.
On November 11th, 2020, I officially signed my letter of intent to pursue my athletic and academic career as a wrestler at East Stroudsburg University, and I could not have been more excited about the journey.
My first year in college did become quite the journey. I came into freshman year with a tear in my UCL; it happened while wrestling during the summer. Then not long into the semester, we started two-a-day workouts and the start of weight management. Sadly, due to Covid-19, our season was a bit disrupted, but we still found ways to get multiple workouts in a day. This all allowed me to get to know my future teammates more, so I appreciated that. In a blink of an eye, November came, and it was the start of our official season. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the starting lineup, but I continued working on my technique and getting better every day. There were many losses in my first season as a Warrior but also small victories of improvement every week. In one match, I ended up pinning a girl that had pinned me at the beginning of the season.
My regional tournament did not go as planned either, but Coach gave me some motivational words which got me pumped for my sophomore season. I did begin that next season strong until I developed back and shoulder problems, thus not allowing me to get many matches under my belt before winter break. Unfortunately, I am now out for the rest of the season due to these upper back issues. I hope to get better over the next couple of months so I can become stronger for next year. As many people say, “Wrestling is important, but your health is the most important”.
To any girl thinking about starting to wrestle, do it! It might seem scary at first, but it gets you into the best shape of your life. It teaches life lessons of hard work and dedication that will carry on with you throughout life and give you friendships that will last a lifetime. Most importantly, for anyone reading this article, I hope you remember, “IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO TRY!”