I don’t think Kathryn Podolan and Kevon Davenport know each other, or have even heard much about one another.
She is a freshman at coed Madison Heights Bishop Foley. He is a senior at all-boys Novi Detroit Catholic Central.
The only thing they have in common is that both are wrestlers, but with a difference: she is one of two girls on the otherwise all-boys wrestling team. He is on the brink of winning a fourth consecutive individual state championship.
There’s also a difference in how they got into the sport. Here are their stories:
Kathryn’s classmate, Jacky Axente, had convinced her to join her on the squad. “We talked to the guys, and they were excited about it,” she says.
At 5 feet and 98 pounds, Kathryn wrestles in the 103 weight class. The first time she competed was an exhibition against a girl in the 112 class. “I was really nervous. Everybody was watching,” she says.
She lost, but in the regular season, Kathryn has accumulated a 5-5 record, against only one female opponent.
Coach Bernie Gonzales points out two of the wins were against boys by large scores, “19-1 and 18-4 ... She’s adorable as she can be, but tough as nails. She’s a natural who picks things up fast.”
“The most difficult part of wrestling,” Kathryn says, “is what move to do and when to do it.”
In last week’s CHSL wrestling championships, she was pinned by a sophomore from Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice in 1 minute, 58 seconds, but still won a medal for third place.
Kathryn’s parents are supportive of her wrestling. “My sister Anna (a senior at Bloomfield Hills Marian) thinks it’s cool.”
Her father, John Podolan, says “grandma had some hesitation at first because of the boys, but she’s gotten over that quickly. I wasn’t surprised. She’s a go-getter, never been afraid. It’s in her foundation to be a doer.”
So, you shouldn’t be surprised either to learn she ran cross country in the fall and is looking ahead to “my favorite sport,” soccer, in the spring, both on the girls teams.
At Royal Oak St. Mary elementary, she played CYO basketball from fifth through eighth grades. She’s played club soccer since she was 4 years old.
As a freshman on Bishop Foley’s girls cross country team, she was named most valuable. “I was the fastest runner.” Kathryn was sixth best in the CHSL Division 3-4 cross country meet and qualified for the state finals, where she came in 99th overall, but 12th best among all freshmen runners.
Kathryn’s smart, too. She had a 4.29 GPA her last marking period. She’s helping the robotics team build a robot for tournament competition this spring.
Her long-range ambition is “to be some kind of engineer.”
It took some convincing, too, perhaps not as subtle as Kathryn’s, for Kevon Davenport to decide wrestling was his sport.
“When I was 8 years old, I wasn’t very big, so to toughen myself up I went out for football,” he explains. “I saw a kid get a bloody nose. Definitely that wasn’t my sport.”
Right off the start at Catholic Central, Kevon made an immediate impression. Coach Mitch Hancock sums him up: “Smart, hard-working, analytical, earns everything he has received.”
“You don’t get tired about something you love,” is Kevon’s take. “If I want to be better, I have to get better. I can be anything I want if I’m prepared.”
His “wants” now are twofold. One is for the team to win the Division 1 state wrestling championship for a third year in a row, which would be Coach Hancock’s seventh win and tie him with legendary CC coach Mike Rodriguez.
The Shamrocks begin their state tournament Feb. 6 in the Northville district.
Three days later, Kevon begins his personal quest for a fourth consecutive individual state championship at the Novi district. He has won the individual titles at three different weight classes: as a freshman in the 119 class, at 130 as a sophomore and 145 as a junior.
“I’m not sure what weight I’ll do, either 152 or 145. Whichever I feel best.”
If he can succeed, he will join an exclusive group of 24 wrestlers in state history who are four-time winners. In addition, he will be the first CHSL wrestler to do so.
Two summers ago, he performed on the international stage at the Pan American Championships in Argentina. He brought home a bronze medal in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
Kevon will be attending Nebraska in the fall, choosing the Cornhuskers over Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina State. He attended a weeklong camp last summer at Nebraska. “From the moment I stepped foot on campus it felt like home,” he says. “It just felt like I fit in perfectly there.”
His Christian faith (Pentecostal, not Catholic) is important to him. “I believe in Christ. There are a lot of pressures in life. I offer them to Him.”
Adding: “God is on the mat with me.”
Contact Don Horkey at email@example.com.