Before the wrestling season started, a schedule was necessary for Corona del Mar High’s Kiersten Muse.
Coach Mark Alex met with Muse, the last remaining member of the Sea Kings’ original three girls’ wrestlers and the only one to stick with the program for all four years.
Both of them pull out calendars. Alex produces a list of all of the possible tournaments in which Muse could compete.
Muse then turns to her personal calendar and provides the dates that she is free. It is an endeavor. Her schedule is packed, and all of her commitments come color-coded.
The senior has to be this organized, as she balances her classes with wrestling, theater, choir, speech and debate, and even an improv comedy club.
Once Muse’s wrestling schedule has been mapped out, Alex says something that makes Muse laugh.
“He’s like, ‘OK. Now I can plan all the boys’ tournaments, I guess,’” said Muse, shocked that her schedule is being given first priority.
Muse, a three-time CIF Southern Section qualifier, would not be wrestling if it were not so. A black belt in karate, Muse had no intention of joining a team sport when she arrived at CdM as a freshman.
Muse thought that she would be preoccupied with choir and theater, but she said an inability to say “No” got her into the sport. After school on a cold day, a wrestler spotted her doing homework outside and asked her if she would like to continue working in the wrestling room.
The next thing she knew, Alex was asking her if she would like to try wrestling. Within days, she was hooked, and Alex saw the makings of a great wrestler.
“She had done contact sports with the karate, so it seemed interesting,” Alex said. “She wanted to try it. The first practices, I saw right away that she had the potential to be really great.
“I can teach technique. I can teach moves and strategy, but certain kids have that internal fight, that intensity level, and I saw that in her right away.”
Muse appreciated the foresight and belief of her coach, and she has committed to private lessons with Alex to take her training further.
“I tell Coach Mark this all the time. I wouldn’t be wrestling if he weren’t my coach,” Muse said. “He saw my tenacity before I knew that I was that aggressive with all of it. He knew I was good when I didn’t. It was his first year for a girls’ team.
“It’s the first time that I have ever been part of … a team sport. I just told him, ‘This is what I want to do. I’m going to work extra hours.’ ”
Muse routinely gets home late, but nothing seems to grate at her. She has the people skills that translate across multiple platforms.
She described herself as a kind of “Miss Congeniality” in the wrestling world. She believes that people appreciate the small things, and she goes out of her way to greet people, even those she is not wrestling.
Then when the 5-foot-1 Muse gets on the mat, she is ready to strike. Muse is 23-3 overall this season, including a title at 143 pounds in the Rialto Carter Girls Classic. She has 21 victories by fall.
On Jan. 5, she was the runner-up to reigning 126-pound state champion Cheyenne Bowman of Rowland in the Lady Saints Classic at San Dimas High. Muse had three pins to reach the final of the 137-pound bracket.
Her ability to communicate has also served her well in areas that were previously perceived to have little flexibility.
“Last year, we had a few negotiations with some teachers over availability and time commitments,” Alex said. “She is mature enough to talk to the other teachers and say, ‘Hey, this is what I can do. If you can let me sing or you can let me in the production, then I can do it. Otherwise, I can’t do it.’ ”
Muse has helped the Sea Kings’ wrestling program with recruiting on campus, and she has also assisted in running summer camps. She now leads workouts with the boys in the program, too.
With all of the time that Muse has committed to the program, Alex wanted to do something for her final season. After seeing her wrestle in socks that displayed Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” for several seasons, Alex had a singlet made out of the artwork. The entire girls’ team is wearing “The Starry Night” singlet to its competitions this season.
From working-class Cincinnati to affluent Newport Beach, Muse has won over her latest neighborhood. She was the homecoming queen of CdM this year, and she continues to enjoy making an impact on campus with her various extracurricular activities.
“I think the commonality with all of it is that I just love talking to people,” Muse said. “I love meeting people, and I never get burnt out. I’ve been doing all of this for four years.
“I don’t get burnt out because I love doing all of it. I wouldn’t be in the wrestling room for extra hours if I didn’t love doing it.”
Born: Nov. 6, 2000
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Height: 5 feet 1
Weight: 137 pounds
Coach: Mark Alex
Favorite food: Chicken tikka masala
Favorite movie: “The Princess Bride”
Favorite athletic moment: As a freshman, Muse qualified for CIF. Sea Kings coach Mark Alex declined to tell her when she was in the qualifying match, so when she found out that she had made the cut, Muse said she “jump-hugged everyone.”