Wrestler’s career ends amid head injuries

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm

When faced with challenges or obstacles that arise in everyday life, many of us give up if we cannot see an easy solution. It seems that giving in when things get tough has become part of the teenage norm. Instead of considering other options or persevering through hardships, they turn to complacency. They are faced with two options; the easy way out or the challenging route. For junior Jenna Goen, the latter has never been an option.
Jenna, who has actively participated in taekwondo since a young age and has never let the stigmas of a “boy’s sport” get to her, which helped her during her freshman year in transitioning to wrestling.

“I was really embarrassed to tell people at first because I thought they were going to think I was a man,” Jenna said. “[There were] a couple people that I felt judged me for wrestling, but once they realized how serious I was, that got cleared up.”

With rigorous workout schedules along with schoolwork, Jenna would devote herself to wrestling, sacrificing many things along the way.

“We worked out in the practice room for two hours,” Jenna said. “In the past, school was behind wrestling, and I’d train for the day and then with what energy I have left, do my school work.”

Her freshman year, Jenna made it to the state competition, where she placed second. This carried on into her sophomore year, where Jenna was determined to win the state championship up until she suffered a serious concussion and was unable to compete. Following her recovery in the spring she attended nationals and got another smaller concussion. With two concussions from wrestling and one previous concussion from taekwondo, she was forced to retire from her wrestling career.

“Because of the concussions I can no longer wrestle,” Jenna said. “I’m prone to concussions; and they last so long. I have been warned it’ll cause permanent damage if I get another.”
A chapter of her high school career ended with her wrestling career, and like many teens that struggle with change, she struggled to find her footing and build herself back up again.

“When the doctor wrote the note saying I could no longer participate in contact sports,” Jenna said. “I felt everything that I had dreamed of was coming to an end and that I had given up. I felt as if I was letting something go that I would later regret even though I could do nothing about it.”

Although she can’t wrestle, Jenna continues to assist the team, helping younger inexperienced wrestlers improve skills.

“She leads by example,” wrestling coach Michael Zito said. “She’s here everyday, and even though she can’t technically be with us because of the concussions, she’s still out running with the kids, out there motivating everyone. It tears her up inside because she’s someone who wants to be on the mat, she wants to be competing.”

Jenna has transferred many qualities she’s learned from wrestling into everyday life and has even implemented them into the classroom.

“Wrestling is a sport of both endurance and strategy,” physics teacher Robert Richards said. “I see her doing both in the classroom, using strategy to solve problems and endurance to persevere through the hard times.”

Jenna agrees and credits wrestling with shaping who she has become in high school.

“I think wrestling has made me more confident in myself,” Jenna said. “It made me realize that if you have a passion for something you shouldn’t be ashamed about it.”

Jenna’s injuries have changed her plans of winning state the championship and have left the former wrestler to face her latest obstacle.

“Now that I can’t wrestle, I’m really stuck at a crossroad between [whether or not] I should stay and help younger wrestlers, or leave and move on,” Jenna said.

Teammates and coaches admire Jenna for her contribution to the team, as one of the best female athletes they’ve seen in years. They’re proud of how far she has come and will continue to support her.

“I’m sad to see it end the way it did,” Zito said. “She had her chance freshman year and she was two points from winning a state competition, and I know it hurts her not to get another chance. It was a one shot deal, but in the same sense, looking at the other side, if Jenna continued to wrestle and got hurt in any way I don’t know what I’d do. In a sense, the way things ended were for the best.”

With whatever challenges Jenna faces, she’ll find a solution, using her experiences in wrestling to lead her through all aspects of life.
“I really found myself in wrestling,” Jenna said. “It helped define me throughout high school. That’s where I realized who I was; there isn’t a single thing I’d change about it.”

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