Wrestlers fine-tune skills at workshop

Brad Gicopoulos

While most people were at home putting on a few pounds over winter vacation, the United States Olympic Education Center women’s freestyle wrestling team was preparing for a vigorous schedule of tournaments and training.

From Dec. 10-20, eight members of the team attended the Austria Training Camp in Götzis, Austria. The women not only gained experience from wrestling against each other, but they experienced a new culture, different athletes, and contrasting styles of wrestling.

This upcoming weekend, half the team is traveling to Menlo College in Atherton, Calif. for Nationals. The other half of the team is traveling to Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Shannyn Gillespie, head coach of women’s freestyle wrestling, said he is looking forward to the upcoming tournaments and knows the importance of the weeks leading up to Nationals.

“We are heading into our competition season, and we’ll see where we are at technically, tactically and mentally,” Gillespie said.

NMU senior Amber Miracle is one of three athletes traveling to California. Miracle took fourth at both Senior Nationals and College Nationals in 2010.

“I hope to make it to the finals, I have to be more offensive and take more shots,” Miracle said.

With tournaments almost every weekend until Senior Nationals and University Nationals in April, the USOEC athletes have little time for fine tuning. These past two weeks were not only used for that but also for cutting weight.

“Getting motivation to start the diet while being busy studying and training at the same time is challenging,” Miracle said.

The Guelph Open this weekend is where most of the USOEC freestyle athletes will compete. The competition is a warm-up for the upcoming tournament that will be hosted in Mexico instead of Japan.

With nationals coming up soon, Gillespie said the team is ready to compete hard and fine tune some of their techniques.

“I am excited about the upcoming two competitions that will show us what we have mastered going into the national tournament season,” Gillespie said.

NMU junior Patricia Hill, who took sixth in the 2010 Nationals, knows it is time to focus if she wants to continue her aspirations of a first place finish this year.

“I want to place in the top two this weekend, but basically get prepared and focus in on Nationals and do whatever it takes to get there,” Hill said.

Hill said the women have practice up to twice a day along with weightlifting and school work.

“Wrestling gets harder and more intense, but there is less cross training involved than normal,” Hill said.

The USOEC has two styles of wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling. In Greco-Roman wrestling, it’s mainly all upper body; the athletes are not allowed to use their legs to gain an advantage using techniques such as tripping or grabbing the opponent’s legs.

In freestyle, athletes are allowed to use their legs to gain an advantage and to pin the opponent. A pin is when a wrestler places both of the opponent’s shoulder blades on the mat for two seconds, which wins the match.

Hill said practice is rigorous but that success is only achieved through the hard work she and her teammates do.

“When I’m tired I just tell myself I only have a half hour left of practice, and I know it will be worth it in the end if I just push through,” Hill said.

For these athletes, wrestling is not just a sport, but a lifestyle. Hill said they have to eat healthy to make weight and compete, having good grades is a must to stay on the team, and being properly conditioned is one of many things that makes them excel at this sport.

Miracle said that she is grateful for the opportunity to wrestle and attend a university simultaneously.

“Being able to train for the Olympics and go to school at the same time is a dream come true,” Miracle said.