"It was a really tough decision," Lee said. "I just think wrestling is more unique. There are fewer girls and I thought it would set me apart from everyone else."
That it did. Not only did the 103-pound Lee earn a starting role for the Titans this season, but she made some history, as well, by winning her weight division at the Central Coast Section Girls' Wrestling Championships last weekend at Oak Grove High in San Jose.
Lee now will represent Gunn at the inaugural CIF State Championships in Lemoore on Feb. 25-26.
"My mentality is like CCS," Lee said, regarding the state meet. "I have to go in thinking I'm going to win the whole thing."
At CCS, Lee was unseeded in her 16-girl bracket but, after opening with a first-round bye, proceeded to pin her way through the tournament and become the first female wrestling champ in school history. Although Gunn's only entry, Lee's pins and victory added up to enough points to give the Titans a 21st-place finish out of 51 teams that competed.
Lee won her match in the Round of 8 with a pin in just 41 seconds. She then pinned the No. 1 seed from Santa Teresa in 3:55 to advance to the finals, where she pinned the No. 3 seed from Branham in 3:59.
"I always have to have the mentality that whatever I go in, I'm going to win," Lee said. "In wrestling, you have to have a certain confidence, and that really helped that I was going to be champion."
Before the finals, Lee was one of two athletes who were presented with the CCS Sportsmanship Award for "Pursuing Victory With Honor."
This marks both the first time Gunn has had an entry in the girls CCS Championships for wrestling and Gunn's first champion in this event.
Lee is 15-4 overall this season, with eight pins, and 5-0 in duals. She won her match, 8-0, during a 36-33 victory over Fremont last week as Gunn wrapped up the SCVAL El Camino Division dual-meet title.
"She ranks sixth on my team for team points," said Gunn coach Chris Horpel. "She had a strong judo background coming in, so it was no surprise that she was this good right off the bat. Her brother, Blaze Lee, is my starter at 140 pounds."
Horpel has known Cadence since she went out for wrestling as a seventh-grader at Terman Middle School.
"She never lost in middle school," Horpel said, "and lost (only) her first matches this year in tournaments."
The Gunn and Palo Alto wrestling teams will be in action this weekend when the SCVAL Championships are held at Wilcox High, Friday and Saturday. Menlo-Atherton, meanwhile, will compete at the Peninsula Athletic League Championships at Burlingame on Saturday.
Horpel isn't quite sure how his team will fare against the upper De Anza Division wrestlers.
"It's really hard to tell." He said. "I think we will have a fair number of CCS qualifiers, but with 15 teams, a lot of them teams we did not see much of this year."
One sure bet for Gunn is senior Stefan Weidemann at 154 pounds. He's undefeated this season.
"Our second-best bet to win a league title is our 119-pounder, Eric Cramer. I think we have about seven solid wrestlers right now."
While Cadence Lee will be in action for Gunn in the league finals, where she places won't have any bearing on CCS, since girls aren't allowed to wrestle at the boys' section finals.
Meanwhile, Palo Alto coach Dave Duran is a bit more optimistic after finishing 5-1 during the De Anza Division dual-match regular season.
"We are still hoping for a three-way tie," he said. "If Cupertino can defeat Los Gatos (on Thursday night), all three of us will be 5-1. If that does happen, I believe the team that finishes the highest at league finals will be the dual-meet champion. With that being said, it looks like a three-team race for the 15-team tournament championship — Palo Alto, Cupertino and Los Gatos.
"Cupertino is the favorite. They have the best tournament team in the league. They have six or seven wrestlers that are big-point scorers. LG has five point scorers; we have our share, as well."
Paly's best bets to challenge for honors are Kalen Gans (160), Nick Ortiz (125), Joey Christopherson (119) and Trent Marshall (130).
"All placed multiple times this season," Duran said. "They all have the potential to win the league . . . Sophomore Erik Anderson has been improving every week and will do some damage at 171 pounds. Junior Ryan Oshima (154) is back from surgery (August). He is extremely dangerous. People do not want to wrestle him. He has state potential.
"We will need our young wrestlers to come back through the wrestle backs. If we can get those wrestlers in the third- and fifth-place matches, we can win the tournament."
At the PAL championships at Burlingame, Menlo-Atherton will have its hands full after breezing through the PAL Ocean Division for the second straight season.
"League finals will be interesting," said M-A coach Peter Wright. "We will only have 8-9 wrestlers competing at the varsity level, so the team finish is not all that important to us (although I would love to improve on last year's fifth-place finish). We have some wrestlers where winning two matches this weekend would be a big step. But, that being said, every one of the varsity wrestlers is expecting/hoping to place and won't be happy settling for just a win or two.
"We have three or four contenders for a league title, and a couple others that could pull out a shocker. Andre Delagnes, at 119, is a strong contender (dare I say, favorite) to win the weight class as is Koji Kameda at 152. A pair of brothers, Anthony and Dino Andrighetto, will likely place and have an outside chance to each win a league title at 103 and 125, respectively. And Austin Escobedo is returning from injury looking to improve on his fourth-place finish at 215 last year."