One-on-One with Kapua Torres
One of the nation’s top female wrestlers opens up about injury, dedication and what it takes to earn respect.
By Susie Magill
It’s not difficult to see how Kapua Torres’ story is unlike that of most girls her age. A former state champion on the all-girl wrestling team at Kahuku High School in Hawaii, Torres is now one of the few female wrestlers competing at the college level. But it isn’t just the sport itself that sets her apart — it’s also her talent.
As a sophomore at Pacific University (Ore.), Torres won both the national collegiate and junior national championships before a nerve injury forced her off the mats for a year. Now in her junior season of eligibility, Torres has not only returned with sharper skills and fiercer tenacity, but with a changed view on life.
STV Growing up in Hawaii, you had the advantage of girl’s wrestling being a state-sanctioned high school sport, which is the case in only three states. When did you first become interested in the sport?
KT I grew up around wrestling. My dad wrestled in high school and was the head wrestling coach at Kahuku. Every day after school, I had to go to his practices and wait for him. I got bored just sitting around, so I tried to wrestle in fourth and fifth grade. I was really horrible at it. Then in sixth and seventh grade my dad allowed me to be a manager for the varsity team. But again, I became restless. So, my eighth grade year I tried wrestling again. This time I really got into it. I started to get serious about wrestling and continued in high school and wrestled for my dad.
STV What has been the biggest reason you have stayed with wrestling this long?
KT My dad. He is my role model and has been my mentor for as long as I can remember. He helps keep me focused when times aren’t going well, even though in college he’s only been able to see me wrestle once in my career.
Father and daughter. Coach and athlete. Torres with her dad, Reggie, who coached her in high school..
It was really tough to have my dad go from being the best coach I have ever had, to not having him there at all. He now mentors me over the phone. After every match I call him, and he evaluates the match with me. I bring my videos when I go home, and he helps correct me. He is my support system.
STV Being at Pacific, a Division III school, there are no athletic scholarships. What is it like to compete in a grueling sport that requires so much of your time and to not receive a scholarship?
KT I think it’s one of the benefits of being at a D-III school. Those who choose to participate in athletics are doing so because they love the sport. They aren’t doing it to just keep a scholarship.
STV Most women don’t grow up in an environment where women’s wrestling is a common sport. How do you feel knowing that there aren’t a lot of women in wrestling and knowing that you are somewhat of a pioneer?
KT Throughout high school, to me, wrestling was an equal sport to any other girl’s sport. But now in college, I will talk to people who don’t even know that women’s wrestling is an Olympic sport. I realize the significance of being one of the few female wrestlers. I can’t predict the future, but I do hope that this sport can grow, and that years from now the numbers will triple or quadruple.
STV I’m sure that there are some stereotypes that come with being a female wrestler. Can you explain what they are and how you handle them?
KT There can be a negative image of female wrestlers when compared to men. A lot of guys who wrestle haven’t seen girls wrestle, or the ones they have seen weren’t very competitive and didn’t succeed. I’ve had to prove myself to men that I am worthy of their respect.
STV What advice would you give to girls who want to wrestle?
KT I would tell them to work hard, and if that is what they want to do, then go for it. Don’t let people hold you back. There are going to be obstacles in front of them in a sport that is just beginning for women. But if they really want to wrestle, they shouldn’t let them get in the way.
STV You are in the first stages of starting an FCA Huddle on Pacific’s campus. How do you think your campus will benefit from having an FCA?
KT For athletes, it seems to be that we struggle keeping our faith while going through school and managing sports with everything else in our lives. For me, I am so busy at school. I am involved in student government, work two jobs and have wrestling and classes. When I am juggling so much, it feels like my faith takes a backseat to everything else. I talk about my faith and go to church, read the Bible and pray, but sometimes I struggle. And my biggest struggle is keeping God first in everything I am doing and promoting Him through it. So, having FCA will allow me and other Christian athletes at Pacific to come together and be a Huddle, to help keep each other stay strong and to share our experiences.
STV How has God used wrestling to develop your relationship with Him?
KT Last year, I wasn’t able to compete. My team doctor held me out because I had pinched nerves down both of my arms. They were worried that I had spinal cord damage. The whole year, I was rebellious. Wrestling was really important to me, but at the same time, I wasn’t listening to my body — it was taking a beating.
The whole time I was struggling, arguing with my team doctor and trying to get cleared. I didn’t have any patience, and I wasn’t using my faith to help me get through it. But this summer I started to look back, and I realized what a blessing it was that I was able to sit out. Now that I am back, I feel stronger than before. I let my body heal. I told myself that God was showing me that I needed to listen more to Him.
STV Was there anything specific that you feel God wanted you to hear?
KT Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV). “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” This Scripture encouraged me to stay strong despite the fact that I couldn’t wrestle. I knew God had greater plans for me, and just sticking to that every day made my perspective toward the whole injury more positive. For awhile it seemed wrestling wasn’t as fun; but sitting out that long and hearing that passage changed my attitude and mentality not only toward athletics, but also my life.
Photos courtesy of Danielle Hobeika
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