Iman Kazem’s competitive nature drove her to wrestling, she says, because it’s the most demanding high school sport she could find.
“It seemed like a really intense sport and I love challenges,” said Kazem, a junior on West High’s wrestling team.
Kazem is one of two local girls, along with Kimball High sophomore Brittany Rose, who will compete today and Saturday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Girls Wrestling Regional Tournament at McNair High School in Stockton.
Kazem finished just one match shy of the medal rounds in 2013, winning three of five matches and pinning one opponent 18 seconds into her second match.
She started wrestling in seventh grade at Fallon Middle School in Dublin, at the urging of a teacher who recognized her toughness and dedication.
Kazem said that plenty of people doubted that she could compete in a sport that is generally seen as a boys’ activity, though it attracts more girls every year.
“I said, ‘I’m going to prove everybody wrong,’” she said. “I went out and I loved it. It’s kind of my life now.”
She’s proven herself repeatedly this year. Kazem has a 16-4 record, including a gold medal at the Tokay Novice Tournament on Nov. 30 in Lodi, where she pinned all of her opponents — all boys.
“I’m not the kind of person who only wants to win by pin, but when I see it, I want it,” she said.
She also won a gold medal Jan. 18 at the Lady Eagles Invitational at Enochs High in Modesto and a silver medal Dec. 7 at the Colt Classic girls tournament at Logan High in Union City.
This weekend, Kazem is aiming to finish on top of the 137-pound bracket at the regional tournament. A top-five finish would be her ticket to the California Interscholastic Federation Girls Wrestling Championships on Feb. 28 and March 1 in Visalia.
West junior varsity coach Rudy Carranza said he hopes Kazem’s success on the mat attracts more girls to the sport. He started the season with five girls on the roster.
“She’s the only one that hung in there,” he said, adding that the junior varsity team selected her as team captain at the start of the year.
Head coach Carlos Salazar also hopes to see more girls wrestling.
“I wish we had more females on the team for her to work out with, but it’s a tough sport and not just anybody can do it,” he said. “It takes a special athlete who has that fire within you.”
Rose, representing Kimball High, is in her first year of wrestling and will compete in the 150-pound class today and Saturday.
“I’m just going to go out there and do everything that I’ve learned, because I’ve learned a lot and I want to try my best,” Rose said.
Rose has gone 7-4 in girls tournaments, winning silver medals at the Enochs Lady Eagles tournament Jan. 18 and the Atwater Junior Varsity tournament Dec. 7.
Rose also competed with state-ranked girls Jan. 24 and 25 at the Lady Baler Bash at San Benito High in Hollister. She didn’t place, but she did get a preview of the type of competition she will face at the regional tournament this weekend.
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.