Kelsey Campbell is ready for the world stage
Kelsey Campbell has never made it to the finals in a Senior level or international event.
Campbell was crowned the U.S. Senior National champion in April, upsetting No. 1 ranked Deanna Rix in the 59 kg/130 lbs. finals. Winning Nationals puts Campbell into the best-of-3 finals at the World Team Trials, May 30-31 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
"I thought 'it's about time,'" she said about winning Nationals. "She (Rix) has been competing well all year and she beat me in September. The moment at Nationals was great and I soaked it in, but I felt like all year I could've done that."
Campbell said one of the aspects to her winning was staying mentally focused. She had confidence she could compete against all of the wrestlers in her weight class and she wasn't too surprised when she won because of all the training and hard work she put in to her wrestling.
After Nationals, Campbell traveled to Venezuela to represent Team USA at the Pan American Championships. She placed second.
"Pan Ams was icing on the cake. It was an opportunity to actually wrestle against top wrestlers because they all qualified to be there and it wasn't an open tournament," she said. "They are all good and it was an opportunity for me to try and feel what it's like to wrestle them. I wasn't putting pressure on myself about placing."
Originally from Milwaukee, Ore., she was active in a local ministry in Portland and the ministry wanted to start a church in Arizona so they sent Campbell. She began serving as a leader at the Phoenix International Christian Church in 2006, but it was something a friend told her that would change a lot of things for her.
"My friend in Oregon told me that if I ever wrestled for Arizona State then I would be a World champion - this was years ago," Campbell said. "It never crossed my mind and it's weird to see how everything has played out. It wasn't in my radar to wrestle for the team when I got there."
She began wrestling for the Sun Devils in 2007 and was the only woman on the team. At first, it was a tough road for Campbell because she knew she wouldn't be one of the guys and could not expect favors because she was a girl.
The second year she was on the team, the Sun Devils went through a lot together which brought them all closer, including Campbell. The wrestling program was dropped by the administration and then reinstated.
"I have had the opportunity to wrestle with some amazing wrestlers, even wrestlers who just came in to train that had made Olympic teams," she said. "Learning from them was awesome. There were a lot of things that you don't really get on a women's college team. It is interesting because the first year I felt I needed to be on the team because it made me tougher, but I learned a lot about wrestling and just being on a team that was structured was great."
U.S. Women's National Coach Terry Steiner said he believed her being on the men's team was about survival at first because she wanted her teammates to realize she belonged on the team. He said he thinks that since she was on the team that it made her mentally stronger.
"She has improved a lot," Steiner said. "She is very hard to score on and is getting better on her offense. She is in the mix and is continuing to improve. Kelsey continues to work hard; she is focused and has made wrestling important in her life. She is developing into a very good wrestler."
This year, with the goals Campbell has set, she is so far so good. Her first goal was to win a national title and she accomplished that. Now, her goal is to make the World Team and then medal at the World Championships.
"It's just a mat, just a circle and two lines in the middle," she said. "I'm going to have one color on and she is going to have one color on. Nothing changes on the mat. I think it will be great."