Girl Power: Young female wrestlers converge on Stillwater for unique camp with members of the World Team | local sports


STILLWATER, Okla. – Helen Maroulis believes that of the more than 200 female wrestlers who have converged on Stillwater recently, at least one of them will be America’s next great female wrestler.

Or better yet, a trailblazer like her.

Maroulis became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, but there is another first to be had for women’s wrestling in this country – Division I college wrestling. .

“I really think with this group of girls, and with the level of women’s wrestling right now, the next future Olympic champion – or hopefully a future NCAA Division I champion – is all here. right now,” Maroulis said. “That’s exciting.”

Maroulis is one of five senior female wrestlers serving as clinicians for the first-ever Sunkist Kids Girls Only Camp held at Stillwater High School, including decorated World Team members Maya Nelson, Kayla Miracle, Dom Parrish and Forrest Molinari.

The idea for the camp, which uses the Oklahoma State dorms right across from the Gallagher-Iba Arena, was someone who knew Stillwater and his role in the fight all too well.

Two-time national champion Mark Perry Jr., older brother of two-time national champion Chris Perry and son of two-time All-American Mark Perry Sr., is the head coach of the Sunkist Kids Regional Training Center which hosted the camp. He was also the personal trainer for Maroulis and Miracle at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

“It’s a question of acceptance, of awareness. It happens,” Perry said. “…I really believe that women’s wrestling will sell very, very well in the world if there is awareness and people get to know the athletes.”

Maroulis said she remembers it was only as a teenager that she was able to interact with an American World Team wrestler. This camp, along with the recent rise of women’s wrestling at the youth level, helps close that gap at an earlier age.

The camp wasn’t just full of high school girls trying to gain a competitive edge in one of the 26 states that had sanctioned high school girl wrestling as of 2021. There were also female elementary-aged wrestlers who made the trip to Stillwater to get an earlier start in their wrestling career.

“There were parents like, ‘My daughter was begging me to bring her here, and she’s five or six years old.’ You think, ‘How do they even know what you’re doing in this sport at such a young age?’ Maroulis said. “But they do. They’re good. They work hard. They pay attention and they want to learn.”

Miracle, the 2021 world silver medalist, led the clinic during Wednesday afternoon’s session.

She made a moment for one of the clinic’s younger campers showing how wrestlers should avoid allowing an opponent to rotate their hips while trying to expose the opponent’s back in a freestyle. The young camper twisted her hips to take control while Miracle’s back was on the mat. The other senior clinicians jokingly slapped the mat for a pin.

The young camper looked at the group of 200 wrestlers with a smile and joked that she had pinned a world silver medalist – which prompted a roar of laughter.

After Wednesday’s afternoon session, about 30 campers also took advantage of a unique opportunity only possible in Stillwater. The doors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum were opened after hours for them to wander the halls and get a history lesson from NWHOF Executive Director Lee Roy Smith on the growth of women’s wrestling since its first World Wrestling. Championships in 1989.

Naturally, the campers turned to the women’s wrestling exhibitions.

Several took photos of the plaques of recently inducted distinguished members Clarissa Chun and Sara McMann – the first time the NWHOF has inducted more than one female wrestler into a single class. They also gathered around the Maroulis engraving in the corner of the room for those who have won Olympic gold but have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“It’s funny what gets little kids excited like, ‘Oh my God, I saw your picture on the wall’ or they’ll come and show me a picture of a camp you liked five years ago – and they look totally different because they’ve had a growth spurt,” Maroulis said before the campers toured the Hall of Fame. “What they remember and what stands out for them, you want always let it be a positive experience, so the Hall of Fame is amazing.”

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