When Cassidy O’Hara was in the eighth grade, she thought about turning out for basketball. Her father, Lakewood High School wrestling coach Tom O’Hara, told her, “You can do what you want, but I know what you’ll be better at.”
Cassidy decided to join the wrestling team instead, and her father was right — she’s found her calling and a good amount of success on the mat. The senior will compete at Mat Classic in Tacoma for the third time this weekend. Last year she took seventh place in the 115-pound weight class.
Cassidy, who earned All-Northwest Conference 2A second-team soccer honors last fall and also plays tennis, competed at the Cadet/Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, last July, winning two of four matches.
“She’s proved that she can wrestle on a national level and (compete) with anybody,” Tom O’Hara said. “Her confidence level has risen to the point where she’s allowing herself to be an elite wrestler.”
The Herald recently spoke with Cassidy about wrestling, her future plans and other interests:
How would you describe your style of wrestling?
A lot of my wrestling (ability) comes from my length. I’m 5-foot-8, so I’m taller than a lot of girls in my weight class, and I can reach more. I (rely) more on movement and speed to take quick shots instead of trying to power through (opponents).
Did you experience a turning point with your confidence?
In previous years, I had the worst performance anxiety. I would overthink heading into a match, I would never just wrestle. One defining moment in my career was at the state meet last year. In the seventh-eighth place match, I was down 10 points at the start of the third round. I heard my dad say, “You can do this. This girl shouldn’t be able to beat you.” I swept her up and pinned her in the first 30 seconds of the round. It all clicked at that point. Ever since then I’ve wrestled completely different — I’m more aggressive, offensive, and imposing my will on other people.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I’ve received an offer to wrestle at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota. I’m going to do visitations to three programs in Oregon — Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University and Pacific University. I just don’t see my future not involving wrestling. The adrenaline rush of the one-v-one challenge is like nothing else I’ve experienced.
What would you like to study in college?
I want to be a physician’s assistant. After I get my master’s degree, I’d like to go on a five-year mission with Doctors Without Borders instead of going to a hospital right away. I want to make a difference and help to literally save people’s lives.
Besides sports, what other school activities are you involved in?
I’ve been involved with the leadership (class at Lakewood), and I’ve done some volunteer work and outreach activities with younger students. I’m also taking Running Start classes at Everett Community College, so I’ll have my associate’s degree when I graduate from high school.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I compete in rodeo events (during) the summer. I’m a barrel racer. When I was 8, my mom bought me a horse and I started taking lessons from professional barrel racers, and ever since then it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing. I’m a member of the Washington Barrel Racing Association and National Barrel Horse Association, and I’ve won at both of those levels.
How would you describe your personality?
I want to treat everyone how I want to be treated. I try to be kind to everyone and keep an open mind because you never know who you might become friends with — there’s so many awesome people out there that you may never get a chance to know.