Reno High wrestler Suzanne Kivi eyes Olympics | NevadaAppeal.com

Reno High wrestler Suzanne Kivi eyes Olympics

Dave Price

A month from now, 15-year-old Suzanne Kivi is going to try and accomplish a first in Nevada high school wrestling. The Reno High School sophomore will attempt to become the first female to qualify for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association state wrestling tournament.

But as impressive as that sounds, it isn’t what motivates Kivi in the training room. Her primary goal is much higher – to become one of the best female wrestlers in the world and compete at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

“The 2004 Olympics are going to have wrestling for women for the first time and my goal is to be there,” Kivi said Wednesday night after competing in a Northern 4A double dual meet at Douglas High School in Minden.

There would be no arguments from either of the 103-pound weight class opponents who faced her on this night. She pinned both – in a combined time of 4 minutes, 13 seconds for the two matches – to improve her season record for Reno to 18-5.

That’s against the guys. Then again, it’s really no big deal to Kivi. The Olympic dream is the long-term goal she is working toward.

“I’m just wrestling guys for practice, so I can get better against the women,” said Kivi, who has six years of wrestling experience under her belt. “My main goal right now is to win nationals again this year.”

Kivi won the gold medal in her 111-pound weight class at the U.S. Girls’ Wrestling Association National Championships last year in Michigan, a feat she hopes to duplicate this coming March.

To prepare for that goal, Kivi traveled to Southern California last weekend to compete at the Thousand Oaks Girls Tournament. She won one match by major decision, two others by pin and received the tournament’s MVP award. The tournament attracted 79 wrestlers in 12 weight classes. She will compete at the Napa Valley Girls Classic on Jan. 22 at Vintage High School in Napa, Calif.

“It’s a lot different wrestling girls than it is guys. The girls are easier,” said Kivi, who won her national title last year by a 4-2 decision over Melina Hutchison of Alaska.

Then again, Kivi has literally grown up with the sport. Her father and mother, Ray and Mary Jo, officiate freestyle and high school matches in Nevada. One older brother Uno now wrestles for the University of Nebraska. Another brother, Josh, is a junior teammate on Reno High’s roster and is the defending state 125-pound weight class champion. Her youth league coach three years ago was Shannon Yancey, a four-time Women’s World Championships silver medalist.

“A lot of people know I wrestle, but nobody puts pressure on me,” she said. “I put it on myself. Somehow, I want to live up to what my brothers have done.”

A J.V. wrestler last season for the Reno Huskies, Kivi has stepped up to a new level as a sophomore.

“She’s stepped up her intensity this year,” Reno coach Jeff Tomac said. “We needed a 103-pounder, she made the commitment to get down there and she’s already helped us.”

Kivi is also a legitimate contender to crack the top four in her weight class at the Northern 4A zone tournament Feb. 11-12 at Galena High School and give her that record-setting trip to the state tournament on Feb. 18-19 in Las Vegas.

“She’s right in the middle of the pack,” Tomac said. “I think she’s going to have one tough match to get past to get to state.”

Kivi is well aware of the significance a top-four finish at zone would carry. But again, she has other goals in mind.

“I’d like to place in the top four at zone, but if I don’t, I’m not going to be disappointed,” she said. “As long as I wrestle well, I’ll be satisfied, even if I don’t win.”

Three colleges in the U.S. and one in Canada offer athletic scholarships to female wrestlers, according to Kivi, but then again, she has other goals in mind.

“I want to go to a school that has a good veterinary school,” said Kivi, who carried a perfect 4.0 grade point average in the classroom during the fall quarter. “If I can find a place where I can get into a good vet school and wrestle, too, that would be great.”

And who knows, there just might be a trip to Athens somewhere down the road.