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Let’s hear it for the girl: Beauty queen earns state wrestling title

Kat Grigsby celebrates after winning the 114-pound state wrestling championship on Jan. 20. (submitted photo)

TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (BP) — Katherine Grigsby has had quite a year of doing her own thing.

Katherine “Kat” Grigsby was crowned Miss Jr. Teen United States in October 2022.

In January 2022, a two-month effort alongside her mother, Angela, led to raising more than $20,000 and building 100 beds for needy children. She helped construct another 100 beds in October, and that same month Grigsby, on the pageant circuit since she was 3, was crowned Miss Junior Teen United States. Then November saw her become the first to win a match for Hewitt-Trussville High School’s new girls’ wrestling team, the beginning of a 38-1 season that ended with a state championship on Jan. 20. 

Hammers and bows and upper body throws, that’s what this little girl is made of.

At first look Grigsby, a member of First Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala., appears a natural for the stage. Her personality may be more of a match for the mat, though. 

“I wanted to wrestle ever since my brother, Stephen, started back in 2014,” she told Baptist Press. “I wanted to be just like him and show I could do anything he could do.”

When his kids were younger, Kevin Grigsby would throw a football over the net around the trampoline where Katherine and Stephen, two years older, would have a free-for-all to catch it. Stephen got most of them, but little sister had her share as well.

It built – perhaps “revealed” is a better word – a competitiveness in Grigsby that wasn’t just for the pageant world, but also gave her an edge as a gymnast. And it showed up when she took the mat on Nov. 19, wrestling above her weight class to earn a pin.

“I was so nervous before the first match because I didn’t want to let my family, team or coaches down,” she said.

Her second match four days later was her first – and last – loss.

“It drove me the rest of the season to never want to feel that way again. I felt I disappointed my team and fell into a position where others thought low of my wrestling abilities,” said Grigsby, whose wrestling persona has lent a new name, Kat.

You wouldn’t think beauty pageants could prepare you to rebound as Grigsby did. But she said those experiences gave her “the right amount of confidence” to grow in an area out of her comfort zone. Gymnastics brought physical training as well as the mental toughness that comes with competing literally against the goal of a perfect score.

It reflects a motto for how Grigsby wrestles – fast and fierce. Her preparation fits it.

Spending time with her dad has brought an appreciation for ‘80s rock, with Motley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” becoming a pre-match hype tune. Her favorite move, The Cement Mixer, is a front headlock with a hip toss that helped her win state.

A devotion to improvement shows in her spiritual and family life, too.

Katherine and Angela Grigsby stand beside a bed given through Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national nonprofit that provides beds for needy children. (Submitted photo)

When after-school gymnastics practice led to her missing family dinner one night, Grigsby made her case for everyone to wait until 8:30 so they could all be together. It wasn’t just about the food, but their nightly prayer time as a family.

Grigsby’s spiritual growth is nourished by those family dinner discussions and prayers and is evident in the mirror – as in the Bible verses written in lipstick and on post-it notes around her room. 

Those habits have manifested in efforts such as with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national organization that provides beds for needy children. Grigsby is a founding member of the Birmingham South chapter. After building the 200 beds in January 2022, retail giant Lowe’s partnered with the group last October to build 100 more. As recently as Jan. 28, Angela and Kat delivered a bed, this one to a 12-year-old girl.  

“God instructs us in His Word to always help those in need,” Grigsby said. “Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a great way to do that as well as spread the Gospel.”

Philippians 4:13 is her favorite verse.

“I’m task- and project-oriented and think Christ leads us in all things we do,” she said. “We must give Him thanks for our successes and accept His comfort in our failures.”

Her wrestling coach at Hewitt-Trussville, Chris Pike, saw those traits in action.

“We didn’t really have expectations. We just wanted to see what she and the other girls could do,” said Pike, also a member at First Baptist. “As the season went on, we saw she had a chance to be special at this and tried to help her achieve that.

“She’s very mentally tough and focused on her goals. She worked very hard daily and her gymnast background helped her a lot in this sport.”

Grigsby followed her brother’s wrestling career until the day it ended his eighth-grade year. In a match against his rival, the other wrestler suffered a serious injury. Stephen made the decision to focus on music, becoming a skilled trumpet player. He’s’ now in the school band and First Baptist’s orchestra and is fielding several college offers due to his high grades.

Ironically, injuries led to Katherine’s transition to Kat.

For all of her accomplishments over the last year, Grigsby also suffered three injuries to the same ankle during gymnastics. After the last one on Nov. 5, doctors told her it would be six to eight weeks before she could compete again.

Shortly thereafter came an announcement on the school intercom: A girls’ wrestling team was being formed.

“She texted me, her mom and her brother about it,” Kevin said. “We went to see the athletic trainers to check her ankle out.”

She passed the checkup and two weeks to the day after her diagnosis, Grigsby was standing on a mat with her arm raised in victory, winner of her first match.

More than 300 girls competed in the state tournament, 38 of them in Grigsby’s 114-pound division. Those odds didn’t faze her. Neither does pressure to live anything less than God’s plan for her. 

“I strive to be the best I can be and try lots of new things,” she said. “That way, I have no regrets in the future.”