High School Sports

In a sport often overlooked, her dedication to excellence is difficult to ignore

Nooksack Valley’s Emma Bruntil celebrates winning the girls 130-pound state championship at Mat Classic XXVIII in February at the Tacoma Dome. Bruntil, who is now a junior at Mount Baker, was selected the MaxPreps High School Athlete of the Month Award presented by the United States Marine Corps for the month of November.
Nooksack Valley’s Emma Bruntil celebrates winning the girls 130-pound state championship at Mat Classic XXVIII in February at the Tacoma Dome. Bruntil, who is now a junior at Mount Baker, was selected the MaxPreps High School Athlete of the Month Award presented by the United States Marine Corps for the month of November. eabell@bhamherald.com

Emma Bruntil is devoted to the sport of wrestling.

How else to explain committing almost all of the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school to wrestling on the state and national levels?

Bruntil was so busy, she even missed her family moving from the Nooksack Valley School District to the Mount Baker School District.

But that kind of devotion has its rewards, the latest of which was learning she would receive the MaxPreps High School Athlete of the Month Award presented by the United States Marine Corps for the month of November. She formally will receive the award Jan. 5 at halftime of Mount Baker’s girls basketball game against Sedro-Woolley.

“I was definitely a little shocked,” Bruntil said of the honor. “Wrestlers don’t get a lot of recognition for what we do. This is for all sports, not just wrestling. I was a little surprised wrestling was put in the limelight like that.”

MaxPreps and the Marines Corps honor one male and one female athlete nationally each month for displaying ideals touted by the Marines, according to a news release, such as bravery, dedication, perseverance, personal sacrifice for others and being a positive influence in one’s community.

Hockey player Connor Blend of Irving, Texas, is the boys award winner.

Bruntil said she spent eight years volunteering with her 4H Club, and she’s looking forward to being able to volunteer again when her schedule opens up this spring.

“It feels good to give back,” Bruntil said.

Bruntil said wrestling also requires the kind of discipline that would make a drill sergeant in the Marines proud, saying, “You always need to do the right things in wrestling and in life in general to be successful.”

Success on the mat is something Bruntil certainly had plenty of during the last year.

She started her year by winning a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state title at 130 pounds while representing Nooksack Valley, and she was selected as the All-Whatcom County Girls Wrestler of the Year. She followed that by winning a 139-pound national title at the USA Wrestling Girls Junior Folkstyle National Championships March 26 in Oklahoma City, and in May she represented Vandit Wrestling Academy at the United World Wrestling Cadet Women’s Nationals in Irving, Texas.

Her busy summer included representing Washington state at the 2016 Junior Women’s Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, N.D., where she took second.

Bruntil said it was while she was at that tournament in Fargo that her family moved, and she returned to begin her junior year at Mount Baker, where earlier this month she began her journey to defend her state title as a Mountaineer.

“It’s definitely different – the culture is different,” Bruntil said. “It wasn’t something I was expecting. The coaches at Mount Baker are really supportive of me and the goals that I’ve set. I want to make the world team, and they’re doing everything they can to help me achieve that.”

Though she has another year of high school left, Bruntil is weighing where she wants to continue her wrestling career. She said she recently visited Oklahoma City University and is considering a number of other colleges.

With awards such as the Athlete of the Month honor, she’ll likely continue to get plenty of interest.

“It means a lot,” Bruntil said. “It shows me I’m improving the way I want and getting better. Big awards like this show you’re making progress.”

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