Junior gymnast becomes first male cheerleader at VHS


Lizzy Jenson

Josh poses for a picture during a game on September 27.

Claire Lawrence, Entertainment Editor

Taking a deep breathe in, he looked around at the full crowd in front of him, bright stadium lights beating down. He leaped, turned and shouted until the only thing left ringing in his ears was the cheers of other students. This was his first time cheering at any game.

Junior Josh Branstetter has become one of Vandegrift’s first male cheerleaders after trying out this past April and making Varsity. This is his first cheer experience, as he is mainly trained in gymnastics.

“It’s definitely very different, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Branstetter said. “Cheer has a lot more energy to it. You have to look very happy and smiley. Gymnastics is a lot more laid back. A lot of the girls are super nice and super helpful and try to teach me how to be a better cheerleader because I don’t have much experience with that kind of thing.” 

Josh started gymnastics when he was three years old and is currently a part of Crenshaw Athletic Club as a level 10 gymnast. He practices Monday through Saturday, three hours a day.

“My neighbor was a gymnast and she kind of taught me how to do cartwheels and stuff like that, and then [my parents] put me in [gymnastics] after,” he said. “I love it! I go every single day. Basically, you have 10 levels before college, so you have the opportunity to go up to a national competition in May and compete against other level 10 gymnasts.”

Unfortunately, being a gymnast can also mean enduring both mental and physical blocks. Two years ago, Josh experienced his first concussion that had him in recovery for over 2 months.

“I don’t remember anything happening,” he said. “During a practice, I was doing a double full on the floor, over rotated and smashed my head into the ground. The next thing I remember is being in the hospital. The recovery took two months, yeah, but mentally it took a lot longer than that to get back to where I was.”

Despite some of the difficulties, Josh still plans to go to college for gymnastics and other studies as well. Some of the schools he’s looked into include the University of Illinois, University of Oklahoma, and the University of Michigan.  

Photo submitted by Branstetter
Josh and his team with Crenshaw stand on the floor.

“They have good teams as well as good education, but gymnastics is not permanent,” he said. “I might coach, just starting out when I don’t have a degree or anything, but I have other interests than just gymnastics. I’m also thinking about doing a B&W step program, which basically trains you to work on B&W cars and from there you can work a specific B&W shop or you can own your own shop.”

As far as his future goes, Josh plans to keep cheering for Vandegrift and competing with Crenshaw and his team in the future.

“It’s gotten tough,” he said. “I’ve just told myself that this is what I want to do and I’m going to get through all this, and I have!”