Sole girl wrestler ready to rumble to state for Liberty

Joanna Moreira, wrestling teammate Zach Toombs here, prepares to go to state in wrestling as the highest-seeded girl in the Issaquah School District.  - Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter
Joanna Moreira, wrestling teammate Zach Toombs here, prepares to go to state in wrestling as the highest-seeded girl in the Issaquah School District.
— image credit: Tracey Compton/Renton Reporter

Joanna Moreira’s record for the wrestling season is 17-5 for Liberty High School and she represents a team of one competing against girls outside the school district.

As the highest-seeded female wrestler in the Issaquah School District, she’s headed to state competition Feb. 15 and 16 at the Tacoma Dome.

The sophomore doesn’t mind being a team of one, in fact she prefers it that way.

“It’s kind of an individual sport,” said Moreira of wrestling. “It’s more you kind of prove yourself than a team sport.”

Being the only girl on the team has worked to Moreira’s advantage, she said. She trains with the guys and often competes against them within the school district, which prepares her for competing against girls. She has to travel outside of the school district to compete against girls outside of the school district.

“So the guys, they’re more muscular; they’re more developed than me,” she said. “So of course, they’re beating up on me. So I’m more prepared going against a guy than a girl. So when I go against a girl, it’s easier for me.”

Moreira has the added task of having to adjust to wrestling both boys and girls, said Liberty’s wrestling Coach Manuel Brown, but she’s got it down.

“Because there are some differences when you’re actually wrestling girls, the weight distribution’s a little different,” Brown said. “Guys, they’re usually in the shoulders and arms. And girls are usually in the lower hips and waist area. You’ve got to compensate for that when it’s time to wrestle, but she’s (Moreira’s) got the hang of it.”

Moreira wrestles in the 137- pound weight class.

Last year Moreira didn’t place at state, but lost to a girl who finished fourth. Her coach said this year Moreira is more committed and has the attitude along with the moves to place. The strategy has been to get Moreira more matches against seeded girls, state wrestlers throughout the season.

“Last year, I kind of went under the radar and like popped into state,” said Moreira. “So now, this year I’m kind of preparing myself against state wrestlers, so then I am prepared for state.”

Excited and “pumped,” she anticipates visiting the Tacoma Dome before state starts, practicing there and looking down on all the mats from high in the stadium, she said.

“I want to come back and have that little moment to myself of, ‘I got this far,’”said Moreira.

She started her journey, in some would say foreign territory, by following in her older brother Tulio’s footsteps. He graduated from Liberty last year. Her brother played football, so Moreira decided to go out for the sport in fifth grade. She discovered wrestling when she was looking for something to do in the off-season. It is also a sport her brother played in school.

“He got me into it; he kind of forced me to do it, so I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

Her mom wasn’t really into the idea of Moreira wrestling in the beginning, Moreira said, but now she’s addicted.

“You can see her screaming at the top of her lungs, telling me to do all these moves,” she said. “My dad’s into it; my dad did high school and college wrestling. My brother’s into it; all my family members support me.”

And so do her male teammates.

“People think it’s different, but it’s not,” said Moreira. “They still treat me the same. I used to play football with these guys too, back in the day. So like even last year I played football with them. They still treat me equally.”

She says she can keep up with them.

“They give me support for doing this and they know it’s hard for me, but that’s what I love my team for,” she said.


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