Alexis Porter is like any other senior at Shenendehowa High School, preparing for final exams, counting the days until graduation.
Except Porter has another graduation planned for Sunday, when she competes in the FILA Junior Nationals in Texas.
“I was a Cadet last year. Now, I’m moving up to Junior,” she said. “I’m graduating to the next level.”
Her day of competition will also see another milestone, as she turns 18.
“The biggest thing for me is making my second world team,” said Porter, whose title at the Cadet Nationals last season earned her a first berth on a World team. “It would be the best birthday present I could give myself.”
Porter will be the youngest competitor when the 63-kilo class is contested.
“Some are my age, in the same situation going up from Cadet to Junior,” she said. “But I’ll be the youngest person in my bracket my first year as a Junior.”
Porter got her first taste of competing against older athletes last month at the U.S. Senior Open. She drew the eventual sixth-place finisher in her first match, and went 0-2.
“I was a little discouraged. But I put it in perspective,” said Porter, who is a four-time national champion and seven-time All-American. “It was a learning curve. I was going in there wrestling women 27 years old, five-time World Team members and medalists. Everyone is so experienced at that point.”
“There will be some of the same competition that I saw at the [U.S.] Open. I’m not sure of everyone who will be there, but most of them have more experience.”
Porter, who was a member of the Shenendehowa wrestling team, prefers freestyle to the folkstyle discipline that is specific to this country, at the youth and scholastic levels.
“Now the focus is strictly on freestyle, no more folkstyle,” she said. “I’m better at freestyle. And that’s the style I’ll be wrestling in college and beyond. That’s the Olympic style for women.
“Going into Nationals, I hadn’t had a lot of freestyle practice. Now, I’ve had more time to work in that style.
“No doubt my folkstyle wrestling has helped me. There’s some things that transition to freestyle. But I prefer freestyle, and now that’s what I have to concentrate on.”
Which leaves just the matter of maturity and strength for Porter to deal with.
“With women, there’s kind of a set point when that evens out,” she said. “It’s definitely the older women who give me a harder time. The maturity and strength comes into play.
“There is definitely an issue of experience. Most of them will have at least a year or two on me.”
Porter’s game plan for Sunday is simple.
“You’ve got to wrestle the way you wrestle no matter who you get,” said Porter, who will wrestle collegiately for McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill. “You could get the best person in the first round — though you are always hoping that’s yourself — or you could draw the worst person in the bracket.
“I just have to have trust in my preparation and my training, and have fun.”