By Rubin E. Grant
Spain Park wrestler Yasmine Oliveira had the most rewarding month of her life in May.
At the beginning of the month, she traveled to Brazil and earned a spot on the U20 (Junior) Brazilian National Wrestling team for the United World Wrestling Pan-American Junior Championships July 8-10 in Oaxtepec, Mexico.
She signed a wrestling scholarship with King University in Bristol, Tennessee, on May 17 and the next day was named the state winner of the prestigious Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award.
On May 20, she graduated from Spain Park and the following day she competed in the State Freestyle Tournament at Huntingdon College in Montgomery and won her weight division.
“It was a very busy month for sure,” Oliveira said.
Oliveira’s greatest thrill was returning to Brazil for the first time in three years and winning gold in the Olympic Freestyle-U20 (Junior) at 69 kg on May 1 with her grandmother, Rosangela Oliveira, watching her wrestle for the first time.
“It was very nerve-racking,” Yasmine Oliveira said. “I wanted to impress her and make her proud.”
Her father, Kaliffa Oliveira, is from Brazil and accompanied Yasmine to the competition. Oliveira received a bye in her first match, then in the second match she pinned her opponent in 1:30. In the championship match she won by a technical fall (13-3) to secure the gold.
“It was pretty difficult,” Oliveira said. “It took more training and more focus. I struggled more mentally, getting my mind straight because Brazilian wrestling is different than it is in America. They use the upper body more and more arm spins. I had to make sure I had a solid base and countered the arm spins.”
Her grandmother was overcome with emotion afterward.
“Before anything else, she started crying,” Oliveira said. “She told me she was so proud of me and grateful to see me wrestle.”
Oliveira’s younger brother Kyle will represent the Brazilian National Cadet Team in the United World Wrestling Pan-American Championships June 24-26 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He will leave in early June to begin training for the championships.
Kyle Oliveira, who just finished his sophomore year at Spain Park, competed in March in the Brazilian National Cadet (U17) division and won gold in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.
“It’s really just a dream for both of us,” Yasmine Oliveira said. “Since I was a kid, even though I wasn’t born in Brazil, I wanted to represent Brazil. And that I get to share it together with my brother is just special.”
During her senior year, Oliveira won the Girls State Tournament championship at 147 pounds while going unbeaten with a 21-0 record. She won 19 matches by pin, including 18 in the first period, while becoming only the second wrestler in Spain Park history to finish undefeated in a season.
Oliveira was recruited by several schools before deciding on King University.
“King University is just the best opportunity for me because I have set high goals for myself and I think this will give me the best chance to achieve them,” Oliveira said.
Oliveira plans to major in biology with an eye toward holistic medicine.
When she heads to Bristol, she will do so with the 2022 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award for Alabama. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame first presented the award in 2014. It is named for Tricia Saunders, a four-time World Champion and women’s wrestling pioneer. Saunders was the first woman to be inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006 and was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011.
The award recognizes and celebrates the nation’s most outstanding high school senior female wrestlers for their excellence in wrestling, scholastic achievement, citizenship and community service.
“I am very happy to be able to represent the state of Alabama for women’s wrestling, knowing that all the hard work I’ve put in paid off,” Oliveira said.