SENECA, MO. — Seneca high school sophomore Isabella Renfro grew up around the sport of wrestling.
Her dad is an accomplished wrestling coach and her two brothers are wrestlers. But, it wasn’t until a few years ago that she decided to go from watching in the stands to being the one competing on the mat.

After just one year of wrestling at the high school level, Isabella compiled an overall record of 34-10 and placed sixth at the MSHSAA girls wrestling state championships. Not too bad for someone who just started wrestling a year prior to that.

“It was kind of intimidating at first,” said Isabella. “But, whenever you get past the all of the conditioning, you just kind of develop a love for it. Like I kind of like winning matches.”

Before she took up wrestling, Isabella played basketball. When she stopped enjoying it, she wanted to find something else that would provide that enjoyment she was missing.

“My dad was like ‘Well, what else are you going to do in the winter time?’ And I was like, ‘Well, there’s wrestling’.”

Her dad Joe Renfro wasn’t really expecting that answer.

“Considering the personality, it was kind of shocking cause she writes little short stories, she’s in the band, plays three of four different instruments and you know, she was just looking for something to stand out in.”

Isabella has been around wrestling all her life. Her dad is a highly successful wrestling coach at NEO A&M College where he’s led the program to multiple national championships, produced over 100 all-Americans and several individual national champions. Plus, her two brothers are also wrestlers. But coming from a family full of wrestlers isn’t the reason she’s become a such a skilled wrestler so quickly.

“She’s got the grit and she’s got the heart and once again, she definitely works hard,” said Joe. “I can’t take any of the credit for her. She’s up at 5 am running. She goes and she has her weight class there at the high school. She has practice in the afternoon and then if there’s anything she wants to work on after that, then that’s where she says ‘Hey dad, can we work a little bit extra?'”

But Joe’s vast knowledge of the sport as a coach and the encouragement he provides as her dad have certainly played a part in her success. When asked about the most important piece of advice he’s given her, she said it’s his message about working hard.

“Hard work gets you anywhere,” said Isabella. “You could be the worst wrestler in the world but if you work hard and you give this sport everything that you have, then you will be amongst the top wrestlers.”