Is Wrestling for the Military Right for You?

There are many opportunities opening up for women in the sport of wrestling. One you may not have been aware of is wrestling for the military. Female wrestlers have been competing for the military in the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) since 2001. The first woman to do so, was World Champion Iris Smith. From 200-2012, there has been a WCAP athlete on every Olympic team. Needless to say, the Army creates results. Jenna Burkert, who trains with the WCAP team at Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado Springs, Co, is one of the athletes who has taken advantage of this opportunity.

By Jenna Burkert

Making the best decision for me

I joined the military because I wasn’t happy about my training or my financial situation while I competed as a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center. I knew about WCAP because of Iris Smith who was a world champ in 2005, and was still competing for the team. The Army program has developed women world medalist and many world team members, so their success was validated. In 2015 I decided to join the Army National Guard because it had a delayed entry. I shipped out to basic training May of 2016. This meant I could leave for basic training after the 2016 Olympic Year. I graduated my basic and AIT in October of 2016. I am a past a past world team member and am top three in the nation in my weight class, so I was immediately approved to be a part of the Army World Class Athlete program. 

What is required

I can’t speak on behalf of the other branches of the military, but do your research to find what’s available. For the women, the army team is the most developed program. Within WCAP, there's criteria to get into the program. Typically the requirement is top three at the cadet, junior, or senior age levels, or if you have a world medal. This would allow you to join the Army Active Duty or National Guard and get on WCAP orders.

From there, the opportunities are huge. I get paid to do what I love, I get health insurance, my school is paid for, they even pay for my housing. All while wrestling, I am still a soldier, I still go to my military schools, I still learn how to do my military job (92Y-Unit Supply Specialist)

If you don’t meet that criteria yet, there's still a way you can join and develop. You can join the National Guard/ or Active Duty, and request from your unit to attend the All Army wrestling Team, which begins early January. The next step would be to get approved. Once you are here you would have to meet certain criteria so that you could stay longer. The orders usually keeps you at wcap at least until Us Open(Jan-April), then depending on if you qualify there, they would keep you until WTT(May/June).

How do you know if you are right for the military?

The Army is a great opportunity to further your wrestling, and to have the privilege of becoming a United States Soldier. They say some people aren’t meant for the military lifestyle, I just think it is all about your mindset. That’s why wrestlers thrive in all the military branches. For me, I believe in structure, loyalty, selfless service, so I adjusted extremely well in the military.

Greatest achievement

My greatest takeaway from joining the military is learning about my own resiliency. Basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) was tough, but it made me so much stronger. Many people believed basic training would be easy for me as an athlete. I got through basic, because I leaned on my battle buddies for help. I quickly realized that it didn't matter how good I was if the person to my left or right wasn’t as strong. For me, a month after i got home from AIT, I was sent to the U.S Open to compete, I won that tournament after not being on the mat for 8 months. I had my Drill Sergeants to thank for that. I knew there wasn’t anything I was not prepared for. After all, six minutes on the mat, is nothing compared to my fellow soldiers fighting in the war.

Military goals

Currently, my near-term goal for the military is to be promoted to Sergeant. First I need to go to Warrior Leadership School, and then to the promotion board. This will take about I’d like to keep climbing the Non-Commissioned Officers ladder for as long as I am in the army. While I am still competing, my goals for wrestling are to achieve world and olympic medals. I’d love to be the inspiration for other female wrestlers interested in joining WCAP. The Army is a great opportunity to further your wrestling, and to have the privilege of becoming a United States Soldier. Its a great opportunity that I know many women can benefit from.

Jenna’s steps to take to join WCAP

If you’re interested in joining WCAP, or just want to learn more about your options, communication is key and I can’t stress this enough. There are so many different options or ways about going into the army and wrestling for WCAP. First, contact myself or my coaching staff. If you meet the criteria of being top 3 in your age level (cadets, juniors, or seniors), you are able to join immediately. However, if you aren’t top three or have a world medal, there are still options for you:

  1. You can join the Army National Guard in whatever state you live in. From there, you would go to basic & AIT just like every other soldier. 

  2. Once you are Army NG, you would do your military job one weekend every month. 

  3. Contact WCAP and tell them you are interested in the all Army program. 

  4. Submit your interest packet, and then once that gets approved, you would be on orders for approximately the next 4-8 months. 

  5. Even if you are not officially a part of WCAP yet, this is an incredible opportunity to train with WCAP and get better, which would put you in a better position to attain top three at the World Team Trials.

  6. If you still didn’t reach that, you would go back home and attend your NG Weekend once every month.

  7. Resubmit your packet and don’t give up!

Jenna Burkert is a 4x National Team Member, 3x Junior World Team Member, and a 2x Senior World Team Member. She wrestles for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program and was 4th at the Military Worlds in 2017. She was 5th at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games as the only female representing the U.S. 

Jenna wants you to reach out to her through social media! She loves working with and answer young athlete's questions, so send them her way!



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What You Have to Know About Pre-Season Training

As a coach, athlete, and even as a parent, it is important to be informed on the proper way to train leading up to a season of competition. Does pre-season training get an athlete in shape? Create a foundation? Or is it not necessary in the least? Strength coach Paul Godinez gives the run-down on how to create a great pre-season training environment.

by Paul Godinez

Pre-season 101

As a Strength Coach, pre-season training is the most important and final phase of development and focus. It is most useful for hardening and sharpening an athlete’s readiness to meet the goals they made for the upcoming season.

I really shy away from the term “sport-specific” anymore; but if there is a phase of the training paradigm that will include more sport-similar training, it’s in the preseason. Workloads are shaped around time in motion, and time of motion. Time in motion is focused around fitness and body angles for the duration of 4-5 matches, or whatever the season plan of competition requires (depending on sport). For example, work the metabolic conditioning at intervals that mimic matches; or “wind” (for us old timers). Conversely, we must also train movements to work at explosive levels, which is the time of motion. Developing the neuromuscular engines in angles that match up to levels and peak power capabilities. An example for this type of work would be Olympic lifts and plyometrics.

Preseason training myths

Preseason is typically a short block of time before the competition starts. Too often athletes are pushed more than necessary during this period. There isn’t much time to build before it becomes more important to refine sport skills, and dive into competition. The cost of trying to accomplish too much during preseason can put some athletes at risk for early season fatigue injury, which could nag all season long.

Creating a pre-season plan

A preseason plan needs to be based on the overall model of training that an athlete invested during the offseason. Planned progression, and mindful post-season, off-season, pre-season, and in-season development is the key. The efficiency of a preseason training model depends primarily on how fit and active an athlete remains throughout the year. This is why having a number of different sports and activities throughout the year will help maintain strength and flexibility, in a variety of ways. This helps keep the body AND mind fresh, ready, and wanting to grind.


A good round number is about 6 weeks. For myself, I like a 7 week prep. This includes a 3 week heavy work phase, an active recovery week, and a 3 week shift to more wrestling specific: explosive, bodyweight, and match fitness.

Work Focus for the Coach

Wrestling provides a genuine challenge in developing a strength and conditioning plan. I tend to recommend more bike, or elliptical work for the lower amplitude CV (cardiovascular) work, and short sprints (<10sec) mixed with movement during recovery, which is built progressively into match duration context. The intent with the bike and elliptical is that they are biomechanically different from the demands of the mat, while still training the oxygen delivery systems in the body. If that type of equipment isn't available, by all means, get out and run. Another great low amplitude activity would be hilly hikes.

Essentially we want to train at lower intensities without having the work adversely affect performance. Point being, you don't get fast by running slow, so doing something different that works the same energy systems while offering diverse, non-specific challenges. Wrestling is, hopefully, more prominent at this phase, so mat time needs to be implemented. Strength work over the 7 weeks goes from max weight variations, to max power output, and high velocity/explosiveness. For instance, heavy squats and deadlifts (3-4 rep max) to jump training and Olympic-style lifts (cleans, snatch, etc).

For the Athlete

Injury mitigation (repair, replace, recover) will hopefully be dealt with in the off-season, when there's no rush to heal or rush to return to competition. So the athlete's mantra should be to wring as much out of every workout, with an equal dose of intensity on the other 2 sides of the Training Triangle; Recovery and Nutrition. Mostly, have a plan for meeting goals, trust in it, and yourself, explicitly. Execute it to the highest degree possible so that the focus is solely on maximizing the return on the wrestler's investment of time, sweat, and emotion.

Sample Week 

I subscribe to an ideal set up of the multi phase preseason plan. In the 1st phase, I focus on building and maintaining the last bit max weight goals for standard lifts like squats, deadlifts, Rows, Floor Press, etc. I still have athletes "reaching," or overloading, a small percentage of workouts on the high repetition side of the plan. In the 2nd phase, a greater emphasis on explosive and relative speed and power development emerges as the drivers of the work. Olympic-style lifts, cleans, snatches, med ball throws, vert & broad jumps. A sample outline for a week would go as follows:

Workout Exercises

     Workout #1       Squat variations (Front, Back, Zercher), Floor Press, Bent Over Rows, Dips & Pull Ups

     Workout #2        Hang Cleans, Push Jerks, Med Ball Passes, Wall Slams

     Workout #3        Squat, High Pull, Dead Lift, 1 Leg Broad Jump (2 foot land), Suspension Presses (CrossCore),

                  upper body Med Ball work, and The Mauler; a 40 rep Push & Pull complex performed on an  

                  set interval, or a or close to a 1:1 or 1:.75 work:rest ratio

Paul Godinez is the Strength Coach for the University of the Cumberlands Women’s Wrestling Team (Go Pats!!), and Owner/Director of Integrated Speed & Strength Development; a human performance, post-rehab training, and facility design program in Highlands Ranch, CO.

With over 35 years of experience working with teams and individuals, Paul has worked with NFL, NBA, MLB, and Olympic and World Championship caliber athletes in myriad sports. He provides school strength & fitness programs for a number of sports, University, High School & Club Level. Paul has also served as State & Regional Director for the NSCA (Nat’l Strength and Conditioning Association), is certified by USA Weightlifting, and is a USA Wrestling Bronze Level coach.

Making the Transition from Folkstyle to Freestyle

cheapseats photography

cheapseats photography

By Sarah Bollinger

I began wrestling when I was 4 years old, but didn’t start competing until high school. I was aware of freestyle because my older brother competed in both freestyle and greco during the summer. Besides that, I knew very little. I didn’t know it was the Olympic style, I didn’t know it was the style in college for women, and I didn’t know it was the style for high school national tournaments like Fargo. My junior year of high school, I was allowed to wrestle in a college open tournament. I did not have a coach and freestyle rules were different. I just wrestled. I thought I was winning the match, but it turns out I was loosing by a technical fall! This is how I learned you cannot expose your back in freestyle at all, or else risk giving up points (I tried to granby...a lot). Now as a college coach and former college athlete, I can say with confidence that freestyle is my passion! I always encourage young ladies at camps to continue working on freestyle because it is their future. Once you graduate high school, you compete exclusively in freestyle. Even during high school, you have the opportunity to become a freestyle world team member. Even at a young age, there should be nothing stopping you from dreaming of being the greatest! If you put the work in, you can be an Olympic Champion!

The fear of changing wrestling styles

When it came to transitioning from folkstyle to freestyle I didn’t think it would be hard or easy, I just knew it was going to be different. Many wrestlers are scared to try a new style, but I was excited to learn more. Mostly, this was due to the challenges of my first freestyle tournament. I also had the opportunity to work with some great wrestlers and coaches because my brother was already in the freestyle and greco world. I knew that if I wanted to succeed in college and on the senior level, I would need to focus on freestyle.

Making the transition

The two steps I took to help my transition to freestyle were to practice as much as possible, and to compete as often as possible. Putting time on the mat is a major factor that you can control completely.  I discovered who were the best coaches and athletes around me and found a way to train with them. My high school didn’t invest much time into freestyle, but I was committed to improving. During the summer I would drive two hours to practice at Laguna Hills with coach Valentin Kalika in the morning, then drive another hour to practice at Mark Munoz’s gym at night. In between those sessions, I added another workout. I went to any camps or practices offered by 2008 Olympian Marcie Van Dusen whenever I could. I attended three competitions my first summer, then countless the following year. I developed a passion for freestyle and never wanted to stop. I figured out how to make it happen, and took advantage of every opportunity.

The lessons from freestyle

I learned quite a few lessons from freestyle. I learned how to be a student of the sport. It is important to watch freestyle competitions and understand the history of the greatest sport in the world. I began to recognize the importance of someone you can look up to, follow, or learn from. Every great mentor/teacher was once inspired by their own mentor, past wrestler, or coach. Whether it is Helen Maroulis or your high school coach, always look for ways to grow. My toughest lesson was that it’s ok to fail. Failure is always an opportunity to learn, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” Proverbs 4:25 NLT. Focus on your goals. Don’t get sidetracked with little setbacks. Lastly, just wrestle. I always had so much fun being on the mat because I was doing what I loved, no matter the style.  

3 steps to jump in to freestyle fearlessly

  1. Be a student. Don’t be ignorant and think you know everything. No one knows everything about wrestling. Put the work in and always be ready to learn with an open mind. Freestyle is just another way to grow your talents and explore the sport you love so much.

  2. Make opportunities, don’t wait for them. I used to pity myself and think, ‘Well, I would be as good as her if I could travel like that.’ YOU are the only one that holds you back! Don’t compare yourself to others. Use your resources and become the best version of you. Watch video, practice in your living room with your little brother or sister, work on visualization. There is always something you can do to be better. Don’t let external factors keep you from being great!

  3. Enjoy it. I got injured my sophomore year of college and couldn’t wrestle for 8 months. I never took it for granted again. When I finally let go of worrying about external factors, I had the best year of my college career. I may not have won every match, but I did everything I could and gave 100%. It didn’t matter who was on the mat, I just wrestled. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your passion alive. Passion is what drives your motivation, and will ultimately allow you grow.

Sarah Bollinger is the Head Women’s Wrestling Coach at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS. She was a 3x WCWA All-American with Missouri Baptist, and graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science and Physical Education. She was an Assistant Wrestling Coach at Missouri Baptist for three years, where she helped produce six All-Americans and a national champion.

Breaking Boundaries: Coach Maryam

We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to wrestling's unsung heroes around the world. Coach Maryam was introduced to us through our friend, Hooman Tavakolian of Tavak Partners, a sport diplomacy company. Hooman was kind enough to make the introduce us to Coach Maryam to get to know her better and spread her story. 

What was your upbringing like?

I was born in Tehran. I am the middle child. I have an older sister and a younger brother. My father was a wrestler. My mother was a teacher. We come from a working class family. I was raised around the wrestling mat and [my father’s] involvement. Because of this, I always wanted be involved, but on the coaching level.

What introduced you to wrestling, and who ended up teaching you?

I was introduced to the sport by my dad. I used to watch him wrestle, practice and compete. My father taught me the sport. Also, let it be known that wrestling is very popular in Iran, and is part of the culture. We are all raised in the environment and are aware of the sport as it's the national sport.

What inspired you to coach?

I was inspired to be a coach because of my interest in the sport. My dream and many of the girls’ dreams in Iran is to have wrestling for women in Iran. When Mr. Khadem created wrestling for females, I jumped on it quickly, got involved, and wanted to give back. I was lucky to have learned the basics from my dad. I was just waiting for the opportunity to jump in.

Who have been your biggest supporters in your wrestling journey?

My biggest supporters has been my mother. She always supported me and believes in equal rights for women. She always pushed me to chase this dream. My dad wasn't really too big on the idea, but now he is better since it is now available for women in Iran. Also Mr. Tavakolian (Hooman Tavakolian, Tavak Partners) has been supporting all of us and Iran wrestling, for males and females.

Has teaching and coaching others in wrestling helped your technique and understanding of the sport?

Coaching others has helped me drastically in learning and improving my technique. I also watch a lot of technique videos online from YouTube, and try to learn from great wrestlers. I am a big fan of Helen Maroulis, she is so good.

How has wrestling affected you personally?

Wrestling has helped me become stronger and get my character stronger. I also was introduced to a whole new world. It brought me to a new environment; sometimes good, and sometimes bad. I used to be a sensitive person, but wrestling has helped me become a stronger person and individual. Wrestling has helped me get thicker skin and taught me how to deal with various people.

What keeps you motivated throughout hardships in wrestling?

I get my positive energy from my students. They motivate me to continue when things don't go smoothly. As you know, it's a new sport for us, so there are many growing pains. But, I love when I see my students are so dedicated. They keep showing up for practice, even when they don't have gear, shoes, or appropriate training opportunities.

Have you competed? If so, how often?

I have competed locally in my town, and in my state. In my state I took first place. This was in the early stages of when women’s wrestling was created. I was very good in the Wu Shu style‒ I made it to nationals and the league championships. I also was very active in Kung Fu and Futsal (indoor soccer). Overall, I loved contact sports and competing. I refuse to lose.

Would you recommend this sport for everyone, or do you think it requires a special type of person to fully appreciate the sport?

I recommend this sport only to those who are dedicated. The sport is for those who have goals, big goals. I recommend wrestling to girls who are driven and don't accept loss. Girls that when they are told NO, they  challenge it and ask why, or say yes I can. Done for success, I mean. Also for those who need to be built, I  recommend wrestling to them. I recommend for them to try it, to help them overcome issues and challenges.

What do you think of the advances made for women’s wrestling in Iran (all styles)? 

I believe it's great. I believe it's moving forward thanks to the hard work of Iran Federation. But, there are growing pains. I am confident there is a bright future for Iran. Iranian women are full with national pride. They train hard and want to be the best.

It is reported that there is a critical need for more female wrestling coaches. What do you think is the best solution?

Yes, we need better coaches. Currently men are not allowed to coach us. We need more training by greats like Kori Icho from Japan. I also believe we need joint training camps. This brings us experience and interaction. We are being coached with limited knowledge. We have a coach for our national team from Ukraine. But we need more great technical coaches for local gyms to help us so we can learn and teach our students the correct techniques.

What is the typical background of the women you coach?

Most females who are in this area come from families who's fathers and brothers wrestled. All come from working, blue collar families. Most wrestlers are 18-25 years old. There are older wrestlers, but they are not allowed to compete on the national level. We hope age restrictions will change so older women can one day compete on the national level. Iran is planning to start a cadet and junior national team as well as the sport grows in the next few years.

How is belt wrestling tied to the success of bringing Classical wrestling to Iranian women?

Belt wrestling has helped on the macro level, but I believe it has also hurt wrestlers in learning. As you know, it is hard to change one’s style. Belt wrestling has its own ways and techniques. Unfortunately many have brought their belt wrestling style to classic wrestling.

What has been a major pushback for female wrestlers in your country?

Lack of support from sponsors and help with growing sport. We need more funding, and I also think getting rid of the age restrictions will help. There are many many interested females who are above 23 and who can be great.

What do you think the impact will have on muslim women throughout the world?

This is great progress for all muslim women. Many girls around the world also shared the same dream of wrestling. This has now created an opportunity for all to participate and help empower themselves. It is also great that they have their own specific clothing, so they are not bothered by cultural and religious restrictions on gear. I am very happy for the future of the sport and the opportunity for ALL females, not only muslim ones. Together we are united and can grow the sport.

In closing I would like to thank the Iran Wrestling Federation and Dr. Rasoul Khadem for all their support and in helping make this dream a reality for the many girls in Iran, and now around the world. We still have a long way to go, but I am certain and I feel confident that with your help we can build awareness and support. Thank you for your interest in us and thank you for writing this article to build awareness. We are all sisters on and off the mat.

5 Ways to Transfer Your Judo Techniques to Wrestling

By Elizabeth Dosado

In the combat world, we often see technique translating from one sport to another. One of the most translatable combat cross-overs, is judo to wrestling. When I started wrestling, I had difficulty with my technique as judo was my first sport. created a strange style of wrestling for me at first, as I didn’t know how to combine the two. However, I started seeing a progression in both sports once I learned how to marry both styles. Modifying the moves from judo to wrestling can be a bit tricky, but doing so can really improve your skill set. Applying judo concepts to wrestling throws will help to create a better understanding of throws overall. This article is a compilation of the judo throws I have been able to successfully incorporate into my wrestling.  

The physics of judo throws vs. wrestling throws

In both wrestling and judo, the concept of action-reaction is essential. The main difference between judo and wrestling is the concept of kuzushi (off-balance) and posture. The creation of this off-balance is very different between the two sports. Due to the judogi (robe-like uniform judoka wear), off-balance is generated easier due to the ability to grip your opponent’s gi. Also, the posture used when doing a judo throw is very straight up. However in wrestling, the tie ups must be modified in order to generate enough momentum for a judo throw.  stance also changes the way a judo throw is performed in order to be effective.

Making the Adjustments

Adjustments of judo throws to wrestling are primarily based on compensating for the lack of a gi. The footwork for the throws remains the same, with the main changes occuring in the grips/tie-ups. There will also be a difference in the way a reaction is generated, since  a wrestler moves differently in response to being thrown from that of a judoka.


An Ogoshi throw is made possible by getting your hips through and sending your opponent flying to to their back. A judoka will use the gi as ameans to grip and pull their opponent close enough to throw. However, the best position when you’re translating this to wrestling will be in an over/under position. Your arms must be locked down tightly by trapping your opponent's arm to your rib cage with your elbow, and gripping their back with your other hand. In order to replicate this movement, you must practice pulling your opponent towards your body and sending your hips through just like in judo.


Ippon seonage

An ippon seonage throw is generally done from a standard gi grip. Once the off balance is created, the thrower will place their dominant arm in a position in which it looks like they’re “making a muscle” and will place it underneath and snug into their partner’s armpit. At this point, the partner is loaded onto the back and thrown. In wrestling, this is often done from an over/under position. The off balance can be easily created through pulling the overhook, and getting your partner on their toes.



Harai-goshi can be done with an around the back grip or an around the head grip. With these grips, the judogi provides little difference. This throw is similar to that of a “head and arm” in wrestling. However, there is a stark difference in the execution of the throw. Rather than simply throwing your hip through, you also reap with you leg. This reap is aimed towards the opponent’s outer thigh, and is the thigh on the same side as your dominant side (you will reap with your dominant leg). This throw is especially brutal, since it captures the opponent’s leg to further ensure the throw.



Footsweeps are a bit more tricky to set up in wrestling. If done properly, it will make your opponent afraid of even having their feet around you. A common set up for footsweeps in wrestling is done with an over/under grip. The opponent is moved in a circle through pushing/pulling with the over/under and the foot closest is swept. Footsweeps can also be done in wrestling with a two-on-one grip, in which the two-on-one is thrown and the closest foot is swept.

Uchi Mata.gif

Uchi Mata

Uchi mata is similar to harai-goshi in that it is also a reap. In judo, uchi mata is generally performed from an over the back grip on the gi. In wrestling, uchi mata is super effective from an under-hook. It is essential that when doing an uchi mata in wrestling that one throws up the under-hook as they reap towards the inner thigh and throw.

Ultimately, it is clear that there are many benefits to including judo in one’s wrestling game. These are the moves that can score a critical 4 or 5 pointer, which could turn around the outcome of a match. Additionally, learning these moves will add more variety to one’s arsenal. Sometimes, keeping an open mind in your training journey can make all the difference.

Elizabeth Dosado is from Ruther Glen, Virginia. She is 16, and going into her junior year in high school. She has been practicing judo for three years, and is currently a blue belt. She just completed her third wrestling season. Elizabeth teaches beginner wrestlers in local high schools in an effort to grow the sport for girls in her area.

Elizabeth was fourth in the region during the school season, and made it to Virginia State as the only girl in the 4A division. She is a three time VAWA Girls Folkstyle champion, a two time VAWA Girls Freestyle champion, and has competed nationally representing the Virginia National Team. If she isn't working out or doing combat sports, Elizabeth can be found fiddling with a guitar, singing to herself, or trying her hand at writing. She has done multiple mission trips through her church, and participates in the Army JROTC through her school.