LIMA, Peru – After USA Wrestling added another four medals on Friday to their medal count, one might think the reason for the team’s success is all business and little fun. However, the latter is essential to their success.
“Some people have fun, but don’t practice good technique,” Tamyra Mensah-Stock said. “No, we’re doing it all. It’s a good balance.”
For four of the nights the teams have been at the Pan American Games Lima 2019, karaoke sessions on the main stage of the athlete village have become a bedtime ritual.
Mensah-Stock spearheaded this traveling Pan American Idol exhibition.
“The very first day we came in, it was around 1 a.m., so I didn’t know there was a stage,” Mensah-Stock said. “The next day, I was walking around with Whitney Conder, then I looked at the stage and I’m like, ‘Do you think they’ll have karaoke there?’”
Conder supported the idea from the beginning and told her to ask the staffer manning the stage. Mensah-Stock asked, and, boom, 10 songs later, the U.S. wrestlers found their new nightly routine in Lima.
After futile attempts of coercing her teammates as well as opponents from other visiting countries, Mensah-Stock had a breakthrough on the third night of her one-woman-singing show after one the USA Wrestling staffers asked for Mensah-Stock to braid her hair into a Katniss-Everdeen braid.
The wrestler agreed on one condition: the staff member had to get on stage and sing karaoke alongside her.
From there, the multi-talented wrestling-turned-singing superstars rolled in. Both members of the women’s and men’s squads joined in on the fun, from singing Hakuna Matata to Conder busting out her full-blown breakdancing moves.
Conder picked up the craft when she was age 13, teaching herself most of the moves she knows. Once people in the village got word of her secret talent,
Conder virtually had no choice but to show off her moves – plus, it was her compromise to partake in the show without having to sing.
Not only the compromise, but also the need to live her life to the fullest after experiencing a tragic family loss earlier in the year motivated Conder to dust off her moves.
“I need to make sure I’m living my best life, not just for me, but for everyone else,” Conder said. “Finding ways to help others and making them see that not everything needs to be so serious, and that they need to live their best life and have fun and some excitement in their lives and find that passion and love for whatever they like to do and find ways to bring them happiness. This life is meant to be happy, have fun and great times and memories.”
For both wrestlers, finding the perfect balance of fun and hard work in wrestling is vital to prevent burn out due to how demanding the sport is on both the body and mind.
“When I’m here at the competitions, I’m serious, but I still have like 30% of me dedicated to have fun, because if I get too zoned and focused, it’s stressful,” Mensah-Stock said. “It’s taken me a while to find that balance, but I’ve got it. Leading up to competition, I’m having fun. Wrestling is hard. It is grueling. I’m not just going to be serious every time I go into practice. No, we have music playing and the speakers loud and blaring, we’re laughing and having fun, but we’re still getting things done.”
All of these long nights of showcasing their inner megastars begs the questions of when is sleep taking place and how much is occurring?
“Sleep if you can,” Mensah-Stock said.
After belting out all of the hits, Mensah-Stock’s bedtime routine then consists of listening to her Christian music playlist comprised of almost 1,000 songs, and then eventually switching over to watch a few episodes of Home and The Croods.
Mensah-Stock got three hours of sleep the night prior to her Friday matches.
“It’s no biggie,” Mensah-Stock said of her lack of sleep. “I’m ready to wrestle once I’m weighed in.”
And ready she was.
Facing off head-to-head in the women’s freestyle 68 kg. gold-medal match against Canada’s Olivia Di Bacco, Mensah-Stock quickly overtook the Canadian to be victorious by fall within the first period. Mensah-Stock continued the fun and greeted fans in the crowd, taking selfies and donning the American flag.
Friday’s victory marks the six major title for Mensah-Stock in 2019, however, these titles are just leading her up to the one she cares about the most:
“It doesn’t mean much until I get that world title,” Mensah-Stock said.
The 2019 World Wrestling Championships will take place in mid-September. Between now and then, one can expect plenty of renditions of Disney classics as well as hours on the mat to achieve that ultimate goal.