SUNNYSIDE Stephanie Blankenship, with her family, friends and teammates by her side, cheering her on, signed a four-year scholarship letter of intent to wrestle for Warner Pacific University while pursuing a nursing degree on Friday, April 12.
“I’ve always been interested in medical care and my grandmother was a nurse, so I thought it would be cool to follow her footsteps into nursing,” Blankenship expressed. “I’ve been in the valley my whole life. So, getting out is pretty exciting!”
The distinguished student athlete has been the image of girls’ wrestling at Sunnyside High School from day one as a freshman and a second-place finish at state that season.
“Stephanie is the face of Lady Grizzly wrestling and our program for the past four years. She’s grown up wrestling. I remember watching her when she was in the Little Grapplers program, and you knew there was something special about that kid,” stated Girls Varsity Head Coach Dave Mendoza.
The soon-to-be Knight has been striving to make her college dream a reality from the moment she stepped onto the mat for the Grizzlies and into the classroom.
Mendoza expressed how her journey to the next level will continue to be a significant influence on the younger girls, which will proudly represent the student athlete program for years to come.
“Stephanie is the type of role model that you want to have representing our school and especially at the next level,” Athletic Director Scott Paine acknowledged. “We’re definitely really proud of her. I mean not just from the athletics, but for the education side. As a campus we’re so excited for her!”
Blankenship began her ascent into the sport with strong encouragement from her dad, along with her grandma’s competitive drive to excel.
“I think I knew it from the beginning. She was a natural. And, she’s been wrestling since she was like five or six years old. She was always dominant and made a lot of boys cry,” Stephanie’s dad Phil proudly recalled.
The one Grizzly memory that Blankenship holds onto with both arms wasn’t about any of her individual achievements or state accolades. It was about the program, along with her teammates, which inspired her to be a leader on both on and off the mat.
“Having that connection with the girls on the wrestling team… like that sisterhood we had between each other… is something I’ll never forget.”