Edmondson senior Cassandra Thompson always has demonstrated the utmost enthusiasm.
Whether it's as the City-Wide League's third-best tennis player -- an honor she achieved last spring -- as a manager for the Redskins' baseball team, as a summer participant with Ed Waters' track club or as a fourth-year member of her school's ROTC, she strives for the optimum.
"I love competition, and I don't like to sit around," said Thompson, 17, who carries a 3.8 grade-point average and is captain of the tennis team. "I'm into rough sports. Whatever I do, it's got to have a lot of intensity."
For that reason, Thompson says, she decided to wrestle for the Redskins this year.
"It's got a lot of challenge to it," said Thompson, who likens the grueling wrestling practices to her training as a ROTC chief sergeant.
"I've been lifting weights and running since before I started this. On the weekends, we go to Fort Meade and run about 3 1/2 to five miles."
Edmondson coach Vernon Horton said Thompson, at 112 pounds, "fits right in."
"She came to practice and just did whatever the other guys did -- push-ups, sit-ups and running. My only regret is that she's a senior and didn't start sooner," said Horton, who watched Thompson get pinned in her first two matches at the Eastside Invitational last weekend.
"There's already a guy in her weight class who she can't beat right now, so she's only had three matches," Horton said. "But she's so strong that it's almost an equalizer because you can just see, when she wrestles, that the guys underestimate her."
Thompson said she gave Northern's Paul Natario a long stare after he pinned her Saturday.
"I told him never again," Thompson said. "Then, I said I'd see him on Monday."
The wrestlers met again in Monday's match at Edmondson, and although Thompson lost her third varsity match, 14-5, she earned Natario's respect and that of the referee.
"She needs to learn more moves, but she's very tough and she never gives up," said St. Paul's coach Desi McNelis, who refereed the bout. "She took a shot in the mouth at one point in the match and she just kept going."
Thompson said her mother was worried after watching a boy get taken from the Eastside tournament by ambulance Saturday.
But her friend, Randy Jackson, said he wasn't worried after watching Monday's match.
"The only thing that was going through my mind," said Jackson, a former wrestler, "was that he [Natario] couldn't handle her."
Natario's 3-2 varsity record and his fourth-place finish at the Eastside tournament are proof that he's a decent wrestler.
He put Thompson on her back on several occasions, but each time she used a neck bridge to get out of it and appeared on the verge of breaking free.
"I think it's my flexibility that gives them a lot of trouble," she said. "I just told myself, 'This time, I'm going to fight it.' "
Natario often tried the cradle pinning maneuver, but Thompson continually broke his grasp with powerful legs that can press 360 pounds.
Leading 12-4 with 12 seconds left, Natario allowed an escape to Thompson, who immediately turned and charged for a takedown attempt that backfired as time elapsed.
"She had a lot of guts. She came out to wrestle," Natario said. "I've wrestled some guys that I think she can beat. For any school that wrestles her, they'd better watch out."
Thompson agreed, saying, "Don't take me for a joke -- I am not a joke."