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Two sisters overcome year of struggle to lead North High’s wrestling team

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 8:28 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Wichita North High School has one of the biggest girls wrestling teams in the city, and on that team are two sisters, Bilhah and Rodah Bengi, who were born in Kenya. They immigrated to the U.S. with their family 10 years ago.

North junior Bilhah Bengi said, “They thought moving here was the best option to give me and my siblings a better education and just a better life overall.”

Bilhah Bengi is a junior at North High School. She was six when her parents moved their entire family from Kenya to Wichita.

“I came here and I couldn’t speak English, I had to learn English. So English is my third language,” said Bilhah. “So the adjustment wasn’t as bad on me as it was on my sister Rodah.”

“My first year here, I didn’t really talk. I was in kindergarten and I would observe people as they spoke and just used signs to tell them what I needed,” said North sophomore Rodah Bengi.

Bilhah began wrestling her freshman year at North, without her parents’ knowledge. It wasn’t until after she won a state title that year that she decided it was time to tell her parents that she wasn’t staying after school for student council every day.

North High’s wrestling coach Quinton Burgess said, “But now it’s kind of funny, I think they’ve kind of turned into a little bit of a wrestling family. And we even have the younger sister who’s nine, goes to our club program now.”

Burgess said these sisters are the definition of dedication.

“They didn’t have a ride, so they jumped on their bikes in negative 20-degree weather and rode all the way here to the high school,” said Burgess. “Apparently Rodah’s bike had a flat tire. So she rode the bike with a flat tire in the negative temperatures and then got here. And then actually as a result of it, got a little frostbite in her fingers.”

“We were like tomorrow is regionals, we can’t miss the practice right before regionals,” said Bilhah.

Bilhah and Rodah have focused all their energy on academics and athletics after their 13-year-old brother died in April, due to unknown causes.

“There were days where it didn’t feel real. He was the one I was closest with. He kind of understood me,” said Rodah. “Instead of walling in all that pain, I decided to use that as a strength to move forward and just do what I do for him in life and just continue to move forward.”

Rodah is entering the state tournament Thursday as the 115 sub-state champ and the sub-state Wrestler of the Year.

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