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CREEDMOOR — Katerina “Kat” Pendergrass has been one of the most prominent female athletes at South Granville High School over the last four years.
She is at home on the golf course and football and soccer fields, but she is most comfortable on the wrestling mat, having won the 106-pound division at the N.C. High School Athletic women’s wrestling championship.
“She is as tough as nails,” wrestling coach Jason Talley said. “Boys in the conference weight class did not want to wrestle her because they did not want to get beat by a girl.”
Pendergrass said there is a difference between wrestling girls and boys. The girls are not as strong, so their technique is sometimes better.
“Some girls will just give up once they are on their back, but others will really fight not to get pinned,” Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass said she is driven by the challenge to wrestle boys, saying it’s “a great feeling when you win a match over a boy.”
Some opposing wrestlers have chosen not to weigh in so they wouldn’t have to face her on the mat.
Pendergrass reached a milestone earlier in the season having 100 career wins to her credit.
“Wrestling is a mental sport,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, we do lots of sprints so you just have to push through and go farther than you think you can to reach the ultimate goal.”
Making her 106 pound weight can be challenging sometimes, she says.
“You have to watch what you eat and a couple of days before the match, you start working on the water weight,” she said.
Because the season is over, she now weighs 115 pounds.
Pendergrass encourages all kids to try wrestling.
“I was just hanging around after school doing homework and waiting for my brother to finish wrestling practice. I tried wrestling and it was OK,” she said.
Pendergrass got her first exhibition match as an eighth grader at The Belt wrestling tournament at South Granville. She pinned her opponent, a boy, in less than a minute.
“That is when I knew wrestling would be my sport,” she said.
Pendergrass will compete in club wrestling before heading to Ferrum College in the fall to continue her wrestling career.
Pendergrass was a member of the South Granville football team as a kicker, but decided to try another sport. She ended up on the golf team and enjoyed the game and improved throughout the season.
Late in the 2019 football season, Pendergrass received a text from Mike Hobgood, South Granville’s football coach, the day before a game against Webb. He asked if Pendergrass would kick extra points in the game.
“I was honored to get the call because he holds everyone to such high standards,” she said. “I was going to watch the game anyway, so I might as well kick the extra points,” Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass had not kicked extra points since her sophomore season, now two years later she was put to the test.
The first extra point was a little low and wide, but it went through the uprights.
“I was coming off the field after the first extra point and Hobgood asked me if was I a little nervous and I laughed and said ‘Yes,’” she said.
The next three were dead center.
After the wrestling season was over, Pendergrass turned to another physical sport, soccer.
Her aggressive play, cat like quickness, ability to make pinpoint passes and put the ball in the goal when needed made Pendergrass a solid soccer player for the Vikings.
Last season, Pendergrass was asked to step in and be the goalkeeper against eventual 2A champions, Carrboro. The game ended in a 0-0 tie with Pendergrass recording 18 saves in the match.
“I just had to stay focused and not let the ball get by me. I used some of my wrestling mentality to get through that match,” she said.
She started the season playing for the Vikings and scored seven goals and dished out three assists, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to the spring sports season.
Pendergrass was disappointed, but knows she will get to wrestle in college. She has verbally committed to Ferrum College and will major in nursing, but she still has her options open if she wants to go to college elsewhere.
She said her Talley, her wrestling coach, has been a tremendous influence to her.
“He pushes us in practice so we give 110%,” Pendergrass said. “He does so much for us.”
Pendergrass will leave her mark at South Granville as one of the most versatile female four sport athletes to ever attend the school.
“I never thought I would be this at this spot right now, with graduation just ahead,” she said. “I have already talked to coach about coming back and helping out with the wresting program. Who knows, I might even be a wrestling coach one day, but being an athletic trainer would work as well.”