Darcy Howard-Ross compares her combat hobby to a game of chess as she has to pay close attention to her opponent’s every move.
But the 16-year-old isn’t interested in the board game. In fact her talent, which she now has an American gold medal for, is wrestling.
Howard-Ross just returned from representing the New Zealand Development Wrestling Team in competition in Indiana.
The New Plymouth teen was one of the two Kiwis to bring home a medal.
The small American competitions were bigger than the largest events held in New Zealand, which added to Howard-Ross’ enthusiasm about her wins.
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The Spotswood College student said she was a newbie to the sport.
Most people start at the age of five, but she only began wrestling two years ago, following in her step father-turned coach Kurt Ross’ footsteps.
And it’s been nothing but success for the Spotswood College student since.
“I love it so much, I don’t know how to explain it. When you’re on the mat it’s like silent, it’s like you’re in a dome,” Howard-Ross said.
“It’s like playing chess by yourself – you always think 10 moves ahead.”
While overseas Howard-Ross won five of her seven matches; the two she lost were against men.
She beat state champions in local tournaments, won a medal at one and has been offered the chance to head back to the United States for a few months in the future.
Back in New Zealand, Howard-Ross is the champ in the 14 to 16-year-old, under-53 kilogram weight category, and has five national titles under her belt.
Her mum Charlee Howard said they called her “Darcy the Destroyer”.
She’ll do anything she can to improve, whether that means wrestling boys, or even just her family around the house.
“It’s normal now to wrestle someone 15kg heavier,” Howard-Ross said.
The wrestling around the house has only resulted in one of her six siblings breaking their arm in four places once.
It’s hurting other people that Howard-Ross still can’t handle.
In America, she dislocated a girl’s shoulder and ran off the mat crying herself. She later visited the medical centre with lollies and socks for her injured opponent because she felt so terrible.
New Zealand’s wrestling circle is nothing compared to America, Ross said.
“Wrestling is a tiny sport in New Zealand,” he said.
“We have 120 competitors, they have 1200, it’s at least 10 times bigger than us.”