Mallory Velte: How I Chose Where to Wrestle in College

photo by  tony rotundo

photo by tony rotundo

Mallory Velte started her wrestling journey in California. Despite first being told she could not join the team, she has pushed past obstacles to become a 3x college national champion, a junior and senior world team member, and one of the top wrestlers in the country. Read about her decision making for wrestling in college, and how the lessons she learned can help make your search more simple.

How she started wrestling

I am originally from Sacramento, California, which is where I first started wrestling. I am currently finishing my degree (last 2 classes!) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. I was drawn to contact sports and wrestling my whole life, but didn’t have the opportunity to go to a school with a wrestling team until 8th grade. I asked to join the team, and was denied by the coach, so I thought wrestling wasn’t for girls. When I was in high school, I was approached by the wrestling coach and encouraged to participate - there was 1 other girl on the team so I was excited.  

I love the constant physical and mental challenges of wrestling- the tough gritty aspect of our sport is why I have kept with it.  I choose to attend Simon Fraser University in BC, Canada due to the great wrestling team, and the academic opportunities. I’m a psychology major, and finishing my minors in Early Learning and Kinesiology.

Choosing a college

I was no superstar coming out of high school. I had won the state tournament twice, but aside from that I didn’t have inherent talent in the sport. I knew I needed to choose a university where my wrestling would continue to develop and get me to the top of the national podium.

I never thought twice about not wrestling in college, so I only applied to schools with women's wrestling teams in the WCWA. However, I knew I wanted to compete with a team that could help me become the best wrestler possible. I also wanted to go to a school with quality academics so I would leave with a diploma with a good reputation. Additionally, I knew I wanted to go to a big school in an urban area - basically I didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere.  I visited the top schools at the time: King, Lindenwood, OCU, Menlo, and then Simon Fraser. Visiting the schools was important for me, because I didn’t want to make a blind choice about where I was going to live for the next 4-5 years. Each school visit gave me the opportunity to get to know the coaches and the team to see if I would fit in. Many high school girls I speak to talk about needing to get a “full ride.” For me, I didn’t want to sacrifice quality of academics, training, or quality of life because of money. Luckily with blind faith, a little help from my family, working a part time job, a partial wrestling scholarship, and applying for external grants and bursaries I was able to afford my college of choice: Simon Fraser University.

For high school wrestlers starting their college search

Here are my six recommendations for female wrestlers looking at colleges:

1. Take your SAT and ACT early! It can add to your scholarships and entrance awards.

2. Narrow down your choices! Location, academic programs, school size, and team success.  

3. VISIT THE SCHOOL! Find a way (even if that means your parents won't be able to come). It’s so important to envision yourself at the university to know if it's the right choice.

4. Ask as many questions as you can with the coaches and academic advisors.

5. Don’t commit too early! Coaches will pressure you to sign your letter of intent - but a good coach will let you take your time and decide.

6. Follow your gut instinct - if a coach or a team rubs you the wrong way, it’s not the right team for you.

What she knows now

I wish I knew that money would work itself out. I was very stressed about what I could afford, and I think that clouded my judgement at times. Visiting the schools I was interested in was expensive and tricky during my 12th grade year of high school. But I made it work because it was a priority to me. 

Mallory Velte is a student athlete at Simon-Fraiser University in Vancouver, Canada finishing her degree in psychology. She was 5th at the 2015 Junior World Championships, a 3x WCWA National Champion (2016-2018), a 2x National Team Member, and a 2017 Senior World team member.

College Wrestling 101 for Women

Amid the many opportunities available for women to wrestle in college, how to prepare yourself for a huge decision can be lost in the noise. Making sure you have a college plan is key, and we're here to help provide you with the tools to make one. 

Where do I start?

There are over 40 colleges who offer wrestling for women, which means a huge variety of options. These colleges are predominantly NAIA schools, and reach from east coast to west coast, and includes Canada. The NCAA is currently reviewing a bid that would great emerging sport status for women’s wrestling. Emerging sport status refers to the NCAA supporting more sport opportunities for women, while it builds towards a full NCAA Championship. For further resources, see national and world team member Jessica Medina’s article on the current process for applying to a wrestling college here. The interactive map below displays the most up to date resource on current colleges with women's wrestling programs. For the original college map resource, visit New-York USA Wrestling.

School environment

Major, location, and school amenities should all be factors towards your decision. When athletes are happy with their world outside of the wrestling room, they tend to do better in school and in competition. It could be to your advantage to take the worst of situations into account. If an unfortunate career ending injury should occurs (let’s hope it never comes to that), you should still be happy finishing your college degree at your school of choice. Make a list of the top 5 schools that fit your needs. Start by filling out a Recruiting Form. This form can be found on the team website where you find the school roster and scheduling information (or in the map above). The information on this form goes directly from the admissions office to the wrestling coach and helps your overall school application stand out.

Team environment

If you do an on-campus visit, stay in the dorms with girls from the team, attend a practice, eat in the cafeteria, sit in on classes, and get a tour of the downtown area. If possible, coordinate your visit with a home dual or tournament to watch the team compete. This will provide you a great opportunity see the dynamic of the team and coaches in action.

Put yourself on the map

Often, an onsite school visit due to distance is not an option, or you’ve have a hard time narrowing down your choices (there are so many options!). You have another option: get yourself to competitions where college coaches attend. Junior and Cadet Folkstyle Nationals, the Women’s Freestyle Nationals in Texas, and Cadet and Junior Freestyle Nationals in North Dakota area critically important tournaments to attend if you can get to at least one. College coaches will travel to these tournaments to do recruiting and scouting. Attending the WCWA (Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association) Nationals will give you the chance to watch all the coaches and teams in action. Be sure to let coaches know you are interested in their schools and will be attending. They will certainly want to meet you, and this may give you an opportunity to ask questions if they can plan ahead of time.

Learn freestyle and the rules

You don’t have to know all the technique for freestyle, but you should definitely know the rules. Get familiar with how to score, how to break a score tie, and that good old push out. Join a local freestyle club to begin getting experience. Attending 1-2 times per week over the summer can get you familiarized with the style you will wrestle in college. Youtube videos will be a great resource if you’ve never seen freestyle or if you’d like to see the rules in action.

Get in shape

Start using the offseason as a way to implement a consistent lifting and running program. You don’t have to be wrestling non-stop, but you should get used to adding these workouts. In college, weight lifting will be a regular part of your training. Get yourself prepared for two a days and heavy competition. You should acclimate yourself to the best of your ability.

Prepare for a different lifestyle

When you attend college as an athlete, you are there to staying on top of your academics and work on becoming a better wrestler. Your lifestyle will be different, you will be away from home, and it will be critical to have people around you supporting the tough decisions you must make. You will be pulled in different directions, but when you love wrestling, you are able to steer your ship towards the choices that best support your goals. Traveling and balancing school will be a consistent theme, but you will never regret the memories you made with your teammates and the friends you make for a lifetime!

Jessica Medina's Advice on How to Wrestle in College

This is your guide to becoming a collegiate female wrestler. Included is a list of programs, clubs, and training sites. You will also find general questions and a plan of action to take as you find the best college for you. 

“Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports at the scholastic and collegiate levels. The NWCA is committed to growing women’s wrestling from the grassroots level to the colleges. The NWCA is currently in the process of pursing emerging sports status for women’s wrestling in the NCAA."       -National Wrestling Coaches Association

The article originally appeared on Team USA- USA Wrestling. 

Jessica Medina: Improve your Wrestling Game this Season

By Jessica Medina

As a former athlete transitioning into coaching, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best coaches and athletes in the country. This summer I had the opportunity to travel around the country helping youth athletes improve in the off season. From clinics, to the Freestyle National tournament, to cadet and junior world team camp I have watched a variety of wrestling. As the new season approaches many athletes have asked what they need to do to have a successful season. After evaluating some of our nation’s best youth athletes these are my recommendations for the upcoming season.

Build your confidence

We gain confidence in different ways. Many athletes gain confidence by winning. On the other hand losses can injure any confident mentality. So how do you gain or refocus your belief in yourself when it does not seem to be showing on competition day? Repetition of your technical skills will up your conditioning and boost your confidence. Basically the old fashioned way; hard work. Another strategy is to surround yourself around a strong support system. Your coaches and teammates are a huge part of your season. Look to encourage each other as you train for big competitions together.

Technical improvements

Girls wrestling continues to evolve and so should your technical skills. According to Terry Steiner, the US women's national team coach explains that “women's wrestling needs to improve in the intricacies of finishing a takedown and knowing how to finish attacks.” The top girls in the nation can finish their takedowns from a variety of defenses. Females are built differently so finishing a takedown on a girl's hips may be more difficult than a boy's. Ask your drill partner to give you different defenses to your number 1 and 2 offenses. Learn how to move your body and recover from a bad shot. Being comfortable in bad positions will also feed your confidence to stay on the attack!

Photography by  CHRIS MORA

Photography by CHRIS MORA

Preparation for competition

  This one is huge. As I was able to coach at the Junior National tournament in Fargo this summer, I noticed that some athletes were not prepared for the rigorous competition schedule. Some athletes had to compete six days straight! By the sixth day they were worn down or mentally checked out. It is hard to prepare for an extreme schedule but adjusting your training to a mock competition schedule would help your body adjust easier. Other areas include nutrition for day of competition and post weigh ins, getting a good warm up in, breaking a good sweat, and elevating your heart rate with some sprints.

Freestyle mat time

For any female athlete who seeks to continue their wrestling career post high school then wrestling freestyle is a must. Even if you are only a folkstyle wrestler it is still beneficial for you to wrestle freestyle in the off season to increase your mat time for the year. There are many opportunities for you to get more matches and gain experience.

Know your body

Every athlete is different. Every body is different. The best athletes become in tune with what their body needs. If you need to increase your strength then lift! If you are gassing out in the 3rd period then get that cardio in! If you are exhausted all the time then let your body rest and recover. If your body is shutting down from weight cutting then start evaluating your nutrition and weight class. You are responsible for being authentic with your needs and communicating those to your coach. Know what you need to be your best self. Give yourself an opportunity to be the best this season. If you can pick a combination of these areas and address them, you will have a competitive edge over your opponents this year. Enjoy the process and go get that hand raised!

Jessica Medina is a 2x World Team Member, 6x National Team Member, University World Team Member, 2x Pan-Am Team World Team Member, 2x World cup Team member, and Jr World Bronze Medalist. She was recently named Head Wrestling Coach at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virgina.