Siouxland 7th grader blazes trail on wrestling mats
McKinna Faulkenberry practicing a wrestling move on teamate.
Iowa has a rich history in wrestling. Olympic and College Champions like Cael Sanderson and Dan Gable are just a few.
But there could be a new name that might surprise you, it's McKinna Faulkenberry. This 7th grader from Siouxland is already making a name for herself.
"Once you step on the mat you can't leave anything else on it," McKinna Faulkenberry said.
That's what runs through 7th grader McKinna Faulkenberry's mind, as she prepares to dominate on the wrestling mat.
"I've been waiting a couple years till I felt I was ready for this tournament because it's really really huge," McKinna said.
She's already racked up dozens of medals but now, she's preparing for the biggest wrestling tournament of her career for the US Girls Wrestling Association National Tournament in Michigan.
Like her male competitors, it takes a lot of hard work. But unlike many of her counterparts, she's had to deal with the challenges of being a girl in a sport traditionally dominated by male athletes.
"There's been a lot of people that won't wrestle me, or that don't wrestle me right... And there's a lot of refs and coaches that don't necessarily appreciate girls in the sport," McKinna said.
"There are just not girl's wrestling established where she can roll with girls, and wrestle on a girls wrestling team," Butch Faulkenberry said.
Butch Faulkenberry, McKinna's dad says she gets a lot of support.
"People think just because she's a girl, she can't wrestle, but she will give you a run for your money," Eric Steeler, a teamate said.
"She's really tough. You know she never stops trying," Braden Curry, another teamate said.
But, there are some that disapprove.
"She's had to take grief a few different times and for her not to get discouraged really shows that her mental fortitude and what she is doing is very strong," Butch Faulkenberry said.
Her coach says none of those difficulties follow McKinna onto the mat, where she's just like one of the guys.
"She's without a doubt one of the hardest workers in our room... As she has gotten older in the room, the boys are getting more mature, they're getting physically stronger, but at the same time that makes her work on her technique which makes her a very sound wrestler," Mark Curry, McKinna's coach said.
For now McKinna is eyeing a career in wrestling, while also maintaining a 4.0 GPA in school. She hopes to make it to the Olympics, if the sport isn't eliminated, to show other girls that there's enough room on the mat for them too.
"I want to earn the respect of everyone, I want to influence people to know that we can do it, I can do it," McKinna said.