Mat to Mattress


Brandon Chin


During the season, junior Momoko Ueda, struggles with three opponents at the same time. The match lasts the entire morning and as surely as the next day will rise, the match will begin again.

These three opponents are the lack of sleep, comfort and time.

Wrestling is one of few sports where players will literally struggle from the weight of the game. To prepare for tournaments, Ueda has to wake up as early as 4 a.m. which can take a player down in a unique and systematic manner.

Ueda’s practice includes running 10 miles per week, lifting weights, and performing sprint laps to complement her dietary habits. The intensity of the conditioning caused Ueda to lose a total of 20 pounds. The loss of pounds however carried some additional weight in her matches, as Ueda placed fourth in the girls Central Coast Section in her first year.

To compensate for her fatigue, Ueda brings her wrestling shoes, head gear and knee pads. Underneath lies a pillow when she surrenders to morning fatigue. Ueda admits that the latter is more often used. Her pillow accompanies her anywhere. Other items include old peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrappers, eaten traditionally before tournaments and long-expired Sports Authority coupons. These items attest to what Ueda describes as a messy mix of “heart” and “pure laziness”.


A medal earned from the 2014 Santa Clara Valley Athletic League, Ueda’s first competition, retains a special value given its unique origin. Earned from a series of matches in the male’s bracket, the tournament consisted of a total of four wrestlers and four medals being awarded.

“I got a medal even though I lost all of my matches,” Ueda said. “There were only four people who were competing at my weight.”
Though each wrestler in this tournament received a medal, it’s unique nonetheless. Each circlet of metal was awarded with the guarantee that nobody else at the tournament deserved it more than they did.
“It makes me believe in myself,” she said smiling. “It reinforces a kind of ‘mental toughness’ that is crucial to wrestling.”