By Adam Beard, Juan Cortez, Heather Dyer and Landon Pederson
As she was growing up, Sherry Tucci wanted to be a Power Ranger. Today, the junior at the University of Texas at Austin is a member of Texas Taekwondo and in her own words, “sort of a Power Ranger.”
“All I need are the huge megazords and fancy costumes,” Tucci said.
In two years, Tucci has been named captain of Texas Taekwondo and won a handful of medals, including a gold medal at a Texas Christian University tournament in 2013. She also earned a bronze medal during her freshman year at the Collegiate National Tournament.
Tucci started taekwondo at nine years old after her parents asked if she wanted to join a club. She competed for three years until she quit at the age of 12.
“Throughout most of middle school and all of high school, I stuck to academics,” Tucci said. “At the same time, I kept feeling like I wanted to get back into taekwondo just because I was no longer active in any way, and also because I missed it.”
That’s exactly what Tucci did.
“When I came to UT, I sought out the Texas Taekwondo table at the Party on the Plaza,” Tucci said. “I joined, showed up and ended up really liking it.”
Other than missing taekwondo and wanting to stay active, Tucci has something to prove to
herself. Before quitting at a young age, Tucci claimed a black belt title, something that she rarely put to use after she earned it.
“When I was a kid, I got my black belt,” Tucci said. “I didn’t feel worthy of a black belt title, and I wanted to make it worth it.” Tucci’s black belt title as a kid was for junior level competition and was for children under the age of 16.
She arrived at her first ever Texas Taekwondo practice far from being a perfect fighter.
“I started from the bottom as a yellow belt, which is like beginner status,” Tucci said. “Now, I am one rank behind black belt and am so close to getting there.”
Tucci’s pending black belt title will not be a pure result from competing against females. She fights males too.
“It’s so frustrating to fight her because she has figured out how to fight against stronger and taller fighters,” said Daniel Yun, the vice president of Texas Taekwondo. “When we’re in here in this room together, we’re all one group. Gender doesn’t matter.”
While it is a tough task for Tucci to spar against the boys, she embraces it.
“I personally think it’s better because the guys are generally bigger than me and stronger than me,” Tucci said. “So to practice with them makes me stronger and better prepares me for competition.”
Women are fairly prevalent in the sport, but at Texas, they haven’t been. Yun mentioned that could change with Tucci recently being named the membership coordinator.
“She’s the energy of the team, and she brings diversity to the group,” Yun said. “We are definitely going to be a growing team in terms of girls on the team going forward.”
According to Joe Van, the head coach of Texas Taekwondo, Tucci has grown immensely in her two years.
“I would say her mental growth has been way greater than her physical growth,” Van said. “But overall, she is just a really physically fit person who I am lucky enough to get to coach and watch.”
Within two years as a part of Texas Taekwondo, Tucci has already accomplished what some couldn’t achieve over four years. It would be easy for her to ride the pine.
Tucci is here for about a year and a half longer, and as one of the leaders of the team, she is very clear about what her goals are.
“Competition wise, I’d like to medal at the Collegiate National Tournament as a black belt,” Tucci said. “But in terms of leaving a legacy for people who come to UT Taekwondo behind me, I would kind of like to be remembered as the, you know, the kickass small girl who really fought for it.”