Nicole Rados didn’t know what to do with herself.
A Hobbs cheerleader since freshman year, Rados saw the spring 2021 cheer team disbanding due to COVID. And she wanted an activity to carry her through the rest of the spring – perhaps beyond.
There was the prospect of wrestling for Hobbs. So Rados, then a junior, found herself in ‘why not’ mode.
“Our cheer season was cut short,” Rados said. “It was over; everyone decided that they didn’t want to compete, so the cheer season ended at the end of April. I was already into lifting, so I wanted to do something that challenged me physically. And wrestling definitely was that.”
Seems like an intriguing choice in general. Making it even more so was the fact that Rados had never wrestled before. Ever.
But she thought she’d try it anyway.
“My friend did it, so basically it was that,” Rados said. “And also there weren’t that many girl wrestlers. There was another girl in my grade, her name’s Janya (Banks), and she did it. And I just thought it was very interesting.”
And Rados quickly became a member of the wrestling team, competing in the 126-pound weight class. “I just walked in one day,” she said, “and that’s how I joined.”
The Hobbs wrestling team was happy to have Rados add to their ranks.
“I just asked her what brought her here,” Hobbs head wrestling coach Thomas Rotunno said. “She said she liked to compete. She wanted to have something to do, and she wanted to try out wrestling. I said, ‘No problem.’”
Rotunno didn’t mind that Rados had no wrestling experience.
“She’s not afraid of hard work,” Rotunno said. “She came from the gymnastics background, which takes a lot of stamina, of course; so does cheerleading. A lot of people don’t realize that about cheerleading. She transferred that to wrestling.”
Rados had little time last spring to get acclimated, because the Eagles were well into wrestling season, much closer to the end than the beginning. But she dove hard into it; she had to because the prep was kind of like culture shock to her.
“Practice the first week was very hard,” Rados said. “It pushed me a lot more than I ever thought I could be pushed. … It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And even this year it really pushes me.”
The preparation involves running, working in the stance position, jogging, skipping, cardio. Then comes live wrestling matches against teammates. Night owls need not apply because twice weekly morning workouts – involving running and lifting – begin at 6 a.m.
Rados attacked it, worked hard. And despite her inexperience, Rados won her first match by pin. It was impressive, but also a little comical too, because Rados likely could’ve won the match even sooner than she did.
“I was still learning the basics of wrestling,” she recalled, “but I took her (the opponent) down three times. And then on the fourth time I just pinned her. I didn’t know I was supposed to stay on top of her (the previous three times), because I thought that once I took her down, that was a pin. But no.”
Rados got the rules down and kept winning. She competed well enough to qualify for last year’s state tournament.
So, Rados was eager to continue competing as a senior, especially with a normal-length winter wrestling season.
“It’s going really well,” said Rados, who won her weight class at a recent meet in Carlsbad after wrestling three girls. “It was a really nerve-racking meet, but I had a really fun time at it.”
The Carlsbad meet was fairly normal competition for Rados, who says she mostly competes against other girls. That hasn’t always been the case, though.
“I did wrestle a guy,” she said. “I lost. But it was a good match.”
Rados is 12-3 so far this season, with two of those losses coming against Texas schools.
“Texas girls have been wrestling since the nineties,” Rotunno said, “so having girl wrestlers is nothing new to Texas. They do come more experienced across the state line.”
Whomever she has wrestled, Rados has been getting used to the specific disciplines and sacrifices needed to partake in the sport.
“You have to watch your weight,” she said. “You can’t be overweight because then you’ll have to be moved up a weight class, which is difficult if you don’t want to wrestle someone above your weight.”
Rados, who is five feet tall, likes it just fine at 126. And the wrestling team is fine with what she is bringing to the team.
“It’s been fantastic,” Rotunno said, “because she doesn’t back down. She applies what she learns and she attacks (opponents) … by gritting her teeth and basically running people over.”