Wrestling, once in one’s blood, is never completely cleansed.
Katherine Fulp-Allen, the 121-pound Redwood City native who next weekend will attempt to pin her ticket to the 2012 London Olympics, can attest to that.
Her connection to the art of clinching and grappling is stronger than most others. Katherine and her older sister, Sara, after all, inherited the archaic combat sport as children from their nondomineering father Lee Allen — a U.S. 1956 and 1960 Olympic wrestler and 1980 coach.
And come Saturday at the U.S. Olympic trials in Iowa City, Iowa, Katherine, 23, will attempt to match the feat of her father.
But the road to national wrestling recognition, which started unconsciously when a 6-year-old Katherine wore duct tape-bound water shoes in her first tournament and continued at Half Moon Bay High School and Menlo College, was almost for naught.
In 2010, Katherine blew out a ligament in her left elbow after reacting wrong to a move, which prompted surgery. But it was the rehab and not the injury itself that put Fulp-Allen’s future career in doubt.
“It kind of turned out to be a total disaster,” she said after moving to Colorado Springs with her sister to rehab. “I went from not being in great shape to being in worse shape.”
After opting for surgery, the 5-foot-6-inch Katherine moved up a weight class and found support in the person who had always wrestled by her side.
“It’s been nice to have somebody there for you who knows what’s going on,” Katherine said of Sara. “She’s been able to help me adjust and help me through the emotions that you go through.”
And though Sara is currently nursing a hip injury and won’t be competing in Iowa, she’ll be in her sister’s corner — though being a spectator won’t be easy.
“I get nervous watching anyone wrestle — my sister especially,” Sara said. “We are both emotionally invested in each other’s goals and dreams and you feel like you are out there yourself.”
But despite Sara’s nerves, Katherine wouldn’t want it any other way.
“She’s one of those people who really understand the way that I think in the moment of a match,” Katherine said.
But despite what happens on the mat next weekend, a theoretical loss will not end Katherine’s Olympic dream, but merely postpone it.
“No matter what happens now, I could never imagine myself being done with wrestling,” she says, indicating that she’s also aiming for the Summer Games of 2016. “For me, it feels like so soon.”
WHERE: Iowa City, Iowa
FULP-ALLEN: Katherine Fulp-Allen will be competing in the 121-pound weight class, which has its session Saturday