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.

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. 

Dear Fargo Wrestlers...

katherine's fargo throwback- 2003

katherine's fargo throwback- 2003

Fargo! The crown jewel of our nation’s national high school tournaments. A huge undertaking for all involved. I've watched girls prepping, planning, excitement's the biggest (figuratively and by actual size) tournament of the year for high school athletes who continue on to freestyle and greco. For a small percentage, it's triumph and success, and for others, it's heartbreak and disappointment. The first year I coached Fargo, I had just competed three and a half months prior at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Switching gears on my perspective was a challenge. I had just spent a career completely focusing on myself and my own training. You don't always remember the similar struggles of your youth, especially when you spend years conditioning yourself to a mindset always focused on moving forward and improving. However it was exciting to support young athletes through this huge event, as I had just done the same.

When you arrive at the national tournament, the seasoned Fargo coaches stand out. They know the stats of the wrestlers, who’s beaten who, and why so-and-so shouldn't lose to so-and-so. It was hard to bring myself to the same state of mind. I knew the stats were important to these athletes, but as a coach with my long athletic career perspective, I saw it as an advantage to be unfamiliar with everyone's record. I was able to stay grounded in the moment along with my athlete, and I believe they appreciated the redirection of focus. The more the coach is focused on what should have happened, the less they are focused on the process for the athlete. It is immensely important for the coach to stay in the moment. It’s a false notion that you need to tell your athlete everything about their next opponent. Give them key points on offense and defense, then allow them to put their focus back to their warm up, back to their process.

My advice for coaches: help your athletes understand the importance of properly preparing for a big tournament, and how those skills will transfer into every aspect of life. Teach them how to move forward quickly, win or lose. It's important to not ride the high highs, or the low lows. It is easy to get caught up in all encompassing magnitude of the Junior and Cadet Nationals. It’s important to bring yourself back to the ground, so you're athletes can also see that it's not the end-all-be-all.

Some of these young athletes will continue on and have college careers, some will decide to go even further and test out an international career, and some will be done after their senior year. When I competed at Fargo, I thought this tournament would decide my future. I thought it would give me the perspective of what level I was on, and how I could move forward with my career as a wrestler. Fighting through mostly disappointing performances at Fargo became the true test of how my career would be shaped. I was the one who continued even when I wasn't on the top of the podium.

The lesson for the athlete: use the experience, excitement, victories, and heartbreaks to fuel your next move. Never allow one tournament to shape the choices you make, or the path you take. Wrestling is a sport about not only inches, but centimeters. Success at Fargo can create opportunities, but only you can take full advantage of what is presented.

Jenna Burkert: What's Your Why?

photo: richard immel

photo: richard immel

What is your why? Can you even remember anymore? When you do something for so long, its almost inevitable for your 'why' to come into question. Your why is the reason behind your effort. It is what keeps you driven, if you don’t have a why you may be weak when things get hard. 

Take me for example, I have been wrestling for nineteen years. Now 25-years-old, that’s almost my whole life. I say that with a laugh, can you believe I have laced up my wrestling shoes almost every day for nineteen years? Well I have, but not without the reminder of my 'why.' I emphasize the number of years because it's a long time to keep motivated. I’d be a liar if I told you I never wanted to quit. There have been days that I was so sore, so beat up from practices and workouts, that heck yea I wanted to quit. After those hard days I had to work hard to remind myself why I still compete in wrestling. 

My why is my pure love for the sport. 

My why is the countless hours I have dedicated to become the best.

My why is because at almost 5 years old I saw the Winter Olympics on tv, and knew I had to be there. It didn't matter to me that wrestling wasn't in those Winter Olympics, because the Olympic movement is what set the fire in my eyes and ignited the passion in my heart. I knew I wanted to be the best, and the very best competed at the Olympics. 

photo: tony rotundo

photo: tony rotundo

On the hard days, weeks, and months, I have to remind myself of why I began wrestling in the first place. Your own personal why can be anything. When you fall down seven times, it's the why that gets you up on the eighth time. Some of my greatest victories came right after huge challenges which had made me question if I should leave the sport. Digging through those thoughts helped me realize I didn't want to give up on my goals. At some point, I won’t be able to keep competing and I will have to retire. This reality helps ensure I make the most of every time I am able to step on the mat. I don’t know a single athlete who have never had thoughts about quitting. Take comfort knowing it is okay to question if you want to continue on. Maybe that’s a sign you need a break, or time to do cross-training. Whether you are wrestling or competing in any sport, your why is your biggest weapon. 

Life is hard. Those three words are the honest truth. There are going to be many hard times in your life. It may be sports, school, relationships, or maybe even filing your taxes. Something out there will make you question if you can do it. Your why is your back bone, and it’s the strength that will help you continue on. With social media dominating our every move, it's easy to think everyone else lives perfect, happy lives. This is deceiving and is never the full truth. We don’t see the struggles or the bad days, we only see an image or a ten second video.

I’ll give you guys an example of life throwing curveballs. Three and a half weeks before this year’s U.S. Open, I fractured my ankle along with a high ankle sprain. Let me tell you, my heart ached and I was absolutely devastated. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. As I sat in the hospital listening to the orthopedic surgeon tell me the news, I couldn't stop shaking my head. The doctor told me I would be in a boot, and I most likely should not compete at nationals. With the qualification system requiring us to compete at the U.S. Open, I knew I had to compete because missing nationals would end my season. My eyes fill up with tears, but I knew I had to find a way to be at nationals. I walked out of that room with my mind set on competing. My physical therapist and athletic trainers came up with a plan heading into the open. I would have to be extremely cautious and the most disciplined I had ever been. I had rehab exercises before and after every workout, and I taped up for wrestling practice. If I wasn’t on the mat, I religiously wore my boot. Fast forward, I ended up placing third at nationals, going on to win the world team trials, and then ultimately fell short at Final X. Despite not representing the U.S. at worlds this year, I overcame so much and I stand with my head held high. It’s tough doing what I did, I had to compete with little to no strength in my ankle to push off, but I found a way. I may not have made the world team this year, but I proved to myself just how strong I am. I will rise again, and just like they say, the sun still comes up the next day. So, keep pushing, chase those dreams, and always believe in yourself. 

Life is tough, but so are you.

Jenna Burkert is a 4x National Team Member, 3x Junior World Team Member, and a 2014 & 2018 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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