Tantramar Regional High School may not have a wrestling team of its own, but that wasn’t about to stand in the way of one athlete’s quest for provincial gold.
And that determination led Grade 9 student Kara Steeves to claim the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association (NBIAA) title in the 46 kg weight division on Feb. 23 at École Secondaire Népisiguit in Bathurst.
Kara was first introduced to wrestling in Grade 5 at Marshview Middle School under the guidance of coach Chris Faulkner. After falling in love with the sport, she went above and beyond in order to continue competing at the high school level, thanks in large part to the support shown by her mother Liz, who drives Kara to Harrison Trimble High School four times a week, where the Sackville teen participates in their rigorous training program. Despite training at another school, she represents TRHS in high school competition.
Kara’s latest achievement only highlights an already impressive list of accomplishments.
She dominated the mat at the middle school level, went undefeated in 2018-19 in her weight class as an NBIAA wrestler, and has only lost twice this season in competition as a member of the Mountaintop Wrestling Club, coming away with silver on both occasions.
These achievements earned Kara the 2018 female youth wrestler of the year title for Anglophone East and the 2018 female youth wrestler of the year for Lutte NB, the governing body for wrestling in the province.
What makes Kara’s story even more impressive is that she was born with a severe milk allergy, which requires her to carry an EpiPen with her at all times and has led to another health-related issue that might deter others from competing in such a physically-demanding sport.
“She has shoulder problems,” Liz explains. “She has multi-directional instability in her shoulders, which means it dislocates easily. Kara has rickets disease because of her milk allergy so for her to be doing contact sports is (challenging).
Never one to back down from adversity, Kara previously played minor football, basketball and even plans to join the local high school’s rugby team later this year.
“I think, knock on wood, wrestling is where she’s had the least injuries,” Liz says.
Kara says her milk allergy has only presented a problem on one occasion.
“I’ve gotten hives before just because people will eat (certain) foods. Same as like peanut allergies because I’ll be careful if I eat peanut butter soon before a match because people have allergies. I’ve gotten hives before but have never gone into anaphylactic shock. It’s not like you have to wash your hands before every match.”
Looking ahead, Liz says, “I think the biggest thing with food allergies in terms of wrestling is that as she progresses it’s the travel.
“Before Christmas she was in Ontario and I went on that trip with her, but I won’t be going on all the trips with her so then she has to answer for herself.”
Kara and Liz are both adamant, however, that the local teen is surrounded by incredibly supportive teammates and coaches.
“The coaches are great … her teammates are fantastic,” Liz explains. “She’s just one of the guys to them. She’s lucky. She’s very lucky.”
Bound for nationals
Next up for Kara is a trip to nationals in Fredericton, which gets underway April 5.
While she’s comfortable in freestyle wrestling, this will be the first time she competes in Greco-Roman, which she admits she’s nervous about.
“The difference between freestyle and Greco is that you can’t attack the legs,” Liz explains, “but Kara’s signature move is a single- or double-leg takedown so it’s going to be very unnatural for her to do that.”
Liz is confident, however, that her resilient daughter will adapt to the new challenge.
Looking beyond nationals, Kara already has her sights set on competing for Team NB at the 2021 Canada Summer Games.
And what comes after her career as a competitive wrestler?
At a very young age she is already contemplating giving back to the program that got her started in the sport she loves, saying she’d like to someday help coach the Marshview Middle School wrestling team.