January 31, 2013
Brothers and sisters fight. There's nothing unusual about that.
But usually its against each other, not on the same side. Nor the same team. Nor the same two teams.
But Summer and George Truong do just that. For 10-plus months out of the year, they train and compete in the U.S. judo program. This fall, they decided to wrestle for Palmer High School.
“We get a month-long break in judo and that's perfect during the wrestling season, so we decided to do wrestling,” George said.
The decision was as impetuous as it sounds. George, a senior, wrestled a little bit in middle school before giving it up to focus on judo. Summer, a junior, had never previously wrestled competitively.
Despite the glaring inexperience, both have fared well. George is 21-6 and in the mix for a berth at the state tournament.
“George is a great athlete,” Palmer coach Martin Davidson said. “He brings a lot from his judo background that opponents don't expect. He does a lot of throws and things like that, and he pins a lot of kids because of his judo background.”
Summer is 8-12 despite a considerable size disadvantage. She stands 4-foot-8 “AND A HALF” she said, not wanting to get cheated out of that half inch. And while she wrestles at 106 pounds, the lightest weight class, she would need rocks in her pockets to get to that weight.
She does have the stout, muscular build of a world-class athlete, which helps make up for standing a head shorter than anyone she wrestles against.
She also has no qualms with being a rare female in a sport traditionally populated by boys.
“For me, it's not really that awkward,” said Summer, 16, who was the only female competing at the Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championships, which were Jan. 25-26 at Doherty. “I grew up with being the only girl. In judo, too, there are a lot more boys than girls, so it's not really that different.”
What is different is that in judo, she competes against other females. In wrestling, nearly all of her opponents are male.
“It's just a different mind-set that you have,” she said. “You're only thinking about the match and winning.”
She's well versed on thinking about winning. She was ranked No. 1 in the 40-kilogram class in her age group in 2011 before a shoulder injury forced her to miss all but one match of the 2012 season. She finally returned in October at a tournament in Belgium.
When they approached their judo coach, Ed Liddie, about wanting to wrestle, they got nothing but support.
“As a coaching staff, we thought it would be a good idea,” Liddie said. “We want to make sure they're enjoying their high school career.
“Judo is so close to wrestling in that we have take-downs and pins. Our pins, though, are for 25 seconds.”
When wrestling season is over, the Truongs will have only three weeks before they begin their competitive judo schedule. Liddie didn't think that would be a problem.
“They're two of the hardest-working athletes that we've ever had, and we've been doing this quite a while here at the Olympic Training Center,” he said. “They both have a bright future in judo.”
In the meantime, their focus is on wrestling. At the Metro championships, George watched Summer wrestle with the eyes of a tactician rather than a protective older brother. He feels no discomfort seeing his sister on the mat.
“Ever since she was little (she's been fighting boys),” he said. “She's always been competing with boys all her life.”
George is No. 1 in the U.S. in his age group and is ranked 97th in the world at 60 kilos in judo. He will need to move up into the top 22 to achieve his goal.
“I'd like to make the next Olympic team in 2016,” he said.
But to do that, he won't be counting on any sparring sessions with his sister.
“We try not to spar because we get really competitive,” George said.
And that leads to fights — the kind where you're not on the same team.