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Princess wrestler breaks stereotypes


The 2013 Parkrose High School Rose Festival court are, from left, Destinee Love, Madeline “Maddie” Paltridge, Princess Kyeanna Henry and Brenda Perez-Gonzales.
Mid-county Memo photos/Tim E. Curran
Last month, Kyeanna Henry, a junior at Parkrose High School, was selected Rose Festival princess.
Showing up to a job interview sporting a black eye is never a good idea. However, it didn't hurt 16-year-old Junior Kyeanna Henry's chances of becoming a Rose Festival princess as she was selected to represent Parkrose on the 2013 court last month.

Not only is she the first Rose Festival court candidate to show up looking like Spuds McKenzie, she is the first wrestler on the court, according to Rich Jarvis, Rose Festival Media Relations Manager.
Last month, Henry was selected from four finalists. Destinee Love, Madeline “Maddie” Paltridge, and Brenda Perez-Gonzales were also part of the Parkrose High School Rose Festival court.
Henry has never fit stereotypes. “I want to be a role model to break the stereotypes,” she said. “If you want to be a girl wrestler, be a girl wrestler, if you want to put on a dress and become a princess, that's cool.”

Following her bliss takes her places few women have gone, “It's nice to be called a role model; I did it [wrestling] because it made me happy,” she said. “The fact that other girls see it and they want to do it too, just warms your heart.”With two older sisters - both standout volleyball players coached by her dad, both of them now coaches too - talking constantly about the Rose Festival court and its adherents when she was younger, Henry had her eye on ascending to its heights since middle school.

She is one of 15 young women across the metro area who will earn the princess distinction this year. In addition to having the chance to be chosen queen of Rosaria on June 8, Henry receives a $3,500 scholarship and a new wardrobe.

A three-time state champion wrestler in the heavyweight division - girls wrestling is still a club sport in Oregon - Henry also plays softball and, upon graduation, hopes to play catcher for Boston University.

Although not even halfway over, 2013 has been a big year for Henry - in addition to becoming princess and securing her third state wrestling title, Henry is junior class president and competes with the mock trial team, which went to the state finals for the first time this year.

Henry said she is anxiously looking forward to meeting the other princesses, who will all take on six weeks of community appearances with her.

Her home life, which includes parents Brenda and Ken, her two older sisters and two foster brothers, has long encouraged athletics. To differentiate herself from her high-achieving sisters, Henry said she chose wrestling.

Playing sixth grade football gave her the prerequisite experience in physically tangling with boys, so, when she got to high school, trying out for wrestling felt natural. She said her mother was skeptical, but supportive.

With only one other girl on the team, Henry wrestles boys in practice. She said they're not shy about it. “I have a sarcastic humor, so they enjoy sometimes going after me.”

Accepting girls wrestling doesn't come naturally to everybody.

Henry said breaking her hand sliding into third base last summer didn't hurt as much as being ridiculed and mocked because she joined the wrestling team her freshman year.

To get through it, she found support from family and friends, “Just finding the confidence in myself,” she said. “I'm a girl wrestler, not everyone can do this; I can do whatever I set my mind to. There are always people that are trying to get you down.”

Surrounded by boys all day has its positives. It helped Henry with her self-awareness about being a woman.

“Wrestling actually made me a lot more girly. It made me much more proud of being a woman,” she said. “I took more notice of my personal hygiene and what my appearance was.”

Ken Blume, her softball coach, said Henry is a good player, is well liked by all the groups of kids and is intelligent. “She's thoughtful, nice, smart and a good softball player,” he said. Although he regrets losing her to Rose Festival obligations, he said he'll take any part of her. “I'll take her anytime; she's a good player and good for our team whenever she's around."
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