In the final tournament of her high school wrestling career, Mushirah Sheppard finally got a chance to show her talents against competitors of her own gender. She did not disappoint.
The Salamanca senior, a multi-sport star, Sheppard won her 120-pound weight class in the inaugural NYSPHSAA girls wrestling invitational tournament on Saturday.
In total, she went 5-0 in a round-robin format, pinning four opponents after a 5-0 victory in her opener, not allowing a single point.
“She did really well,” Warriors coach Keith Jones said. “It was exciting to actually get to ... I think it was the first time she really felt comfortable. She always got kind of nervous wrestling the boys and I can kind of understand because it's the same way with the boys, they get a little nervous wrestling the girls sometime. So it was the first time to see her be comfortable wrestling in her element.”
Sheppard is set to finish her varsity career with 87 victories.
“Just short of 100, unfortunately; it's still impressive,” Jones said. “There's a ton of high school boys that don't get anywhere near that many wins.”
The tournament was open to female wrestlers from across the state and was Western New York’s first sanctioned all-girls wrestling tournament. In total, 41 wrestlers arrived to Niagara County Community College on Saturday, representing five different sections.
Sheppard picked up wrestling in the seventh grade, joining coach Rich Morton’s team.
“Seventh grade was her first year ever wrestling,” Morton said. “She was a raw talent at the time, so she always told me I couldn't retire until she graduates. It was kind of nice to see her complete her cycle from seventh grade to 12th grade and knowing a lot of kids along the way that started out with her never finished, so it was really pleasing to see her completing her last year becoming the first-ever girls Section 6 champion for us.”
Salamanca freshman Jessica Seekins also won her weight class, 285 pounds, but did not wrestle on Saturday due to a lack of participation from upper-weight wrestlers.
From Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Lizzie Hines took third at 126 pounds, going 2-2 with two wins.
Morton hopes that with her inaugural championship at the tournament and six years of wrestling since joining the modified team, Sheppard inspires the next great female wrestler at the school to follow her.
“She was very, very excited about it all,” Morton said. “It was nice because she finally had the opportunity to wrestle against her own gender and be able to compete against people of her own abilities and her own strength, I guess you could say.
“She was very excited about the whole thing. She was grinning from ear to ear when it was all over and I think it was very satisfying to be that person to pave the way for the next group of girls who come through, somebody like Emily Brown, who's equally as talented if not more talented than Mushirah at seventh grade. It's nice that she's kind of laid the groundwork for the next group of girls coming through that have ambitions of being like Mushirah.”